Metal detecting has a few rules, some more general and others more specific.
When you’re just starting, it’s easier to follow them. Later on, you’ll figure out what’s comfortable for you, and decide whether you’d rather go in a different direction.
But just as young children thrive inside of reasonable boundaries and limitations, so does the newbie detectorist.
Here are some basic rules to follow as a beginner metal detectorist:
Read your manual
Read your detector’s user manual and/or watch the instruction video.
Seriously, of any other tip I can give you, this one’s the most important.
Because each machine is different and has its operating idiosyncrasies, it is probably the easiest, most important and most direct step you can take to ensure that your initial detecting sessions are fruitful and enjoyable.
The user information provided with your machine comes from the people who know it better than anyone: those who designed and built it, and who have tested it exhaustively.
Your manual thoroughly explains your detector’s features and functions, different signal tones, and how it behaves under varying conditions.
I’m amazed how many people have never read their operator’s manual or even watched the “Getting Started” DVD that comes with nearly all modern metal detectors!
I do read and watch mine—more than once—and keep them around in case I need to refer in the future for some particular reason, and I believe I’m a better treasure hunter for it.
You will do yourself a huge favor by reading through your manual and/or watching your provided video at least once before you get started, because I guarantee that if you don’t, you’ll wind up being very frustrated to the point where you’ll eventually read or watch them anyway.
Save yourself the irritation and just read or watch them first.
Practice, practice, practice
I cannot stress this highly enough. It’s like any other skill: You only get better by actually doing it, especially when it comes to learning the idiosyncrasies of your particular machine.
You can read as much as you want about metal detecting, and you can watch thousands of videos of other people doing it, and I recommend doing both.
But the only way you will build your skill as a detectorist and your knowledge about potential targets is to get out there and detect and dig!
Patience, patience, patience
This is the third-most-important concept to remember about metal detecting.
There’s a lot to learn about your machine, accessories, and potential targets. It’s not difficult, but it does take the time to learn, so you will not “get” everything right away.
To avoid disappointment, adjust your expectations accordingly, and be kind to yourself in learning this hobby. It just takes time.
Expect to spend a significant amount of that time getting to know your machine, and by this, I mean getting out in the field and working with it.
This is a “learning by doing” pursuit. I had a very low-end machine when I first started and wasn’t able to get out to practice hunting very often.
Consequently, it was at least three months after I started swinging my first detector that I found anything other than square nails and junk, and a good year before I found my first modern coin.
But those little victories were enough of a thrill to keep me going for two more years until I could upgrade my machine.
And it wasn’t until I got my third machine in my seventh year of digging that I finally felt I knew a bit about what I was doing.
I don’t think I’ll ever feel like a “veteran,” but I learn something new every time I go out…and so will you.
Always remain a student
It’s easy after you’ve been digging for a while to think you know all there is to know about detecting and about the things you might find.
Here’s a secret: You never will so don’t expect to.
You can’t help but learn more every time you go hunting, especially if you go with other people willing to share their knowledge.
You will benefit most if you share what you know when asked, and admit when you don’t know something.
Don’t be too proud to ask for help, and don’t be a blowhard about what you do know. The most experienced and knowledgeable people I know in this hobby are the quietest and most humble.
Beware the ones always boasting about their knowledge and trying to impress. That kind of behavior is usually born of insecurity.
Seek out experts
Actively seek the knowledge of detecting veterans. There are tons of places to find veteran detectorists you can learn from.
I list some of them in the Resources section of my book. And if you’re lucky enough to hunt with experienced detectorists, keep your eyes and ears open, and your mouth shut (other than to ask brief questions).
Being given the opportunity to learn from veteran diggers who know their stuff (and when you’re a newbie, nearly everyone knows more than you do) is a real gift.
Treat it that way. Be appreciative and show your gratitude for what they share with you.
For more great metal detecting tips, check out Mary’s book, Metal Detecting for Beginners.