Five Ideas to Help Save the Metal Detecting Hobby Now

Five Ideas to Help Save the Metal Detecting Hobby Now

I live in Franklin, Tennessee.    Section 11 of the Franklin, TN Municipal Code states the following:

Sec. 11-806. Use of metal detecting devices restricted.

No person shall use metal detecting devices within the boundaries of any city parks or upon city properties. “Metal detecting devices” shall not include utility detection devices required by law. Each violation of this section shall be punishable as specified in title 22, comprehensive fees and penalties.

And here is the penalty:

Violation for: Offenses against peace and quiet / Using metal detecting devices:       $50.00 per day per violation

Though no relationship between the two is implicitly stated, the fine for metal detecting is classified the same as “Offenses against peace and quiet.”   It also comes right before the code on littering.   We’re not exactly seen as saving stranded kittens from trees.

Just a couple of years ago, the same code referenced above read as follows:

  11-806. Use of metal detecting devices restricted.
(1) No person shall use metal detecting devices within the boundaries of properties known as Fort Granger and John D. Pinkerton Park, which properties are more particularly described in instruments of record in Book 181, Page 334, and Book 329, Page 74, Register’s Office of Williamson County, respectively.

Franklin’s position on metal detecting, like many major municipalities and counties in the United States, has clearly grown much stauncher – from one fort and one park, to encompass any city park and any city property.

The purpose of this article is not to disagree with the great city of Franklin, which I absolutely love in a way that only Lee Greenwood could do justice to in a song.  Franklin, of course, is the site of the Civil War’s Battle of Franklin, one of the largest and most discussed battles of the Civil War.   And Franklin is a beautiful, well-manicured city.    Many cities nation-wide have similar laws against detecting.   I am only picking on Franklin because I live here.

(Note:  If anyone with Franklin or a local society would like to comment for this article, on or off the record, please let me know!)

As a detectorist, ask yourself the following question:   If you were on the city council of a town like Franklin, would you support this code?   Sure it is a huge inconvenience to you, the responsible detectorist.  After all, your right to utilize public property to practice your hobby has been taken away.   But you’re presented with photos of holes left in the ground by irresponsible relic hunters.  Someone talks about the true fact that human remains are still scattered about under the ground.  Maybe even arrest records for trespassers are presented.  Perhaps lawfully-obtained Civil War relics being sold on eBay are exhibited to imply greed.  Metal detecting is blamed, and metal detecting is treated like any other disrespectful offense on public property – just like vandalism, looting, littering, disturbing others, and trespassing.

And do you know what?   They are probably right to do so.   Because for every group of responsible, respectful detecting enthusiasts, you have people who leave destruction in their wake and either don’t know any better, or don’t care about their etiquette and the repercussions of their actions on our hobby.   And like it or not, it is the bad apples that reflect on us, not vice versa.  The irresponsible detectorists leave plenty of ugly evidence, and those of us who care rightly leave little or no traces of our hunting.  So the only evidence of detecting seen by society comes from the “bad apples”.

To further illustrate, certainly everyone who walks through a given park does not litter.    And so to responsible detectorists, banning metal detecting to control vandalism to the public grounds (et al) seems the same as banning walking through the park to control litter.

Metal Detecting is at an all time popularity, recently boosted by at least four different television shows and juggernaut marketing campaigns by major manufacturers such as Bounty Hunter and KellyCo. You can buy a metal detector at Bass Pro Shop, or Wal-Mart.   The popular television show Duck Dynasty has recently released or sponsored the release of their own branded detector.

As a result, we have more new detectorists now than at any time during our history.  I have no hard data, but I would bet people who own a detector and that have detected for 40 hours or less probably out-number experienced users.

And what are we doing to educate these new detectorists?     Maybe some detecting manuals have a hastily skipped over section on responsible detecting practices.  Anything else?

The detecting community includes  three groups that can do something about it: the manufacturers, detecting organizations, and the individual responsible detectorist.

Here are some things that could be done immediately:

Responsibility: Manufacturers
I hear you laughing.  I actually almost laughed at myself when I recently posted this idea on one of the detecting forums.   The scope of warning labels on everything these days is ridiculous.    But are they a bad idea when part of a broader awareness campaign?

The Lesche digger comes with a label warning against the possibility of electrocuting yourself.   Why shouldn’t a metal detector come with a label warning against the possibility of getting arrested for trespassing or vandalism?   It could just be an easily removable tag on a string, or a box insert.

Perhaps D365 could beat this drum a little more by having our artist mock up some labels and giving them out at a trade show.

Manufacturers partnering with each other and/or detecting organizations

It would be in the best interest of the manufacturers to put their competition aside just slightly for the common good and form a joint organization so that they could share funding for this campaign.   Maybe they have – if so I haven’t heard of it and couldn’t find it.

The campaign could include:
– Public service announcements on responsible detecting. Perhaps they could be aired during detecting television shows, for example;
– Common warning labels or product box inserts with responsible detecting messaging;
– Establishment of a logo or seal establishing participating manufacturers as participating in the program
– A memorable slogan
– Hats and t-shirts, bumper stickers and other “swag”

The mission of this campaign might be two-fold
– Proactively make new detectorists aware of the continuing threat to the hobby
– Help the public to see detecting in a positive light

3) Voluntary Certification
Organizations with possible support of manufacturers

Certification could be a simple video or short training course followed by a quiz and a certificate.  Perhaps a manufacturer could support the program with a one-time or standing discount to certified detectorists.  Sure certification is a big inconvenience –  I would do it because I would understand the necessity.  The need is illustrated every time a new law against detecting is passed.

The certification master plan could include lobbying of municipalities and counties that currently restrict detecting to allow detecting on public property to “certified” detectorists (or some other criteria), requiring headphones, and perhaps even establishing off-peak hours where it is lawful to do so.  For cities and counties that do not currently outlaw detecting, lobbying could take place to help go ahead and put in place laws governing detecting that make common sense instead of the harsh laws that we are currently seeing hit the books.

4) Establishment of Alternate Roles for Detectorists:
Responsibility: Organization and Individuals
Let’s rebrand ourselves to be seen differently by the public as something other than probable vandals or “Takers”.
– Proclaim ourself unarmed neighborhood watch people and be trained as such, perhaps part of certification above;
– Trash collectors – I don’t have a problem with picking up garbage whether it is below or above ground; collect them in special colored bags to identify our contribution to the public property;
– Wear certain colored hats and shirts and/or a logo while detecting to unify ourselves;

Silly?  It’s not sillier than ending up restricted to only detecting private property.

5) Self Policing
Responsibility: The individual detectorist
I’m not going to sit here and say you need to rat out your fellow detectorists.  You might not agree with certain laws, etc.  But if someone is killing your hobby, are they really your fellow detectorist?  Some discussion is in order here, but at a minimum calling them out on it with a unified message is warranted when you find someone doing the following with a detector in their hand:

– Trespassing property that is clearly marked “Posted” or “No Trespassing”;
– Night Hawking: Detecting where it is clearly not lawful under cover of night specifically to avoid being seen;
– Clear Vandalism, such as leaving trash and holes

Final Thoughts
This article is “Green Light Thinking.”  I don’t claim to have all of the answers here, but what is clear is that something needs to be done in our defense.  I feel that the effort needs to be led by the manufacturers in order to be successful.    The manufacturers build these things.  They have marketing budgets.  We need them to protect us, their customers.   And we need to support the actions they take to do so.

Detecting365 and our team will make a commitment to support the manufacturers that decide to take action and do something about it.  We hope you will to.

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Photo Credits:
Detecting in a Light Bulb:  Detecting365.  You can use it – just please credit us and link the photo or its caption back to

There is 1 comment for this article
  1. Joe Maschak at 8:25 pm

    Along with manufacturers, vendors can also be included. A simple page of Code of Conduct rules with every shipment.
    I would also like to add Peer Pressure. If you see something, say something. It doesn’t have to start a fight, just words to let him know his actions (or lack of) are noticed.

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