Three Things People Say About Relic Hunting That Are Not True

Three Things People Say About Relic Hunting That Are Not True

“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago.  The second best time is today.” – Stephen Covey

The heyday of detecting was 20-30 years ago.  You could easily hunt virgin sites, use a bunch of discrimination, dig a bunch of great stuff, and just move on to the next property.   Today detecting is a completely different ballgame.   Good research and permission skills, strong detecting techniques, and technology all are required in order to be successful.  Here are three things that we are told repeatedly that just aren’t true.  If they were, you would be reading an article about golf or chess right now, because I wouldn’t detect:


We hear this all the time from property owners and veteran detectorists from detecting’s early hey-days.  We’re told that we need to find somewhere that isn’t hunted out.  Yet we almost always seem to walk away with something good.   Sure we strike out sometimes, but we’d rather be on heavily hunted sites where stuff has been found than on a “new site” that may or may not produce anything.  Last September, a hunting partner and I hunted a yard that we were told was hunted out, and that we’ve verified since was hunted well over 100 times with lots of rare finds.  Over several hunts, we pulled out over 100 bullets, 3 belt plates, a sword hanger, pocket knives, and 4 buttons including one ultra-rare one.  My response: “That site isn’t hunted out.  You are.”

I feel most people who say this really believe it.  Why is this? With all do respect, it is a different world today.  We have new technology that helps but what is most important is that we detect differently.  Back in the day you could hunt with discrimination and find everything you could and just move on to the next property that was loaded.  Now we hunt very carefully.  We have techniques to go after the deep stuff, stuff masked by trash and iron, and items stuck in odd places and signals that would not have been dug in the past.  We just hunt harder!


If you detect solely to sell items you find that is fine with me, but that is not my thing.  It is irritating when someone attempts to urinate on my parade when I am excited about a historical find by pointing out that it has a low or negligible dollar value.   Take an early Civil War militia button I dug last year – beat up, missing a shank.  Here is an amazing historical relic that has been saved and that I will treasure for as long as I live.    The fact that it would have a difficult time fetching twenty bucks on eBay doesn’t matter to me, and it wouldn’t matter to me if it were worth over a grand.   To me, dollar value is only a measure of rarity and demand.   The value of a find to me is the history and the provenance, and that I saved it myself.   I dug my first .69 French Triangle bullet recently.  Not a perfect specimen – maybe worth ten bucks, but I wouldn’t trade it for a US belt buckle, especially one I didn’t dig myself.   My response: “It’s priceless, because I’m not selling.”


It goes something like this: “Back in the day, permission was easy, but now people are greedy or worn out with detecting, and it is very difficult to get them to let you hunt.”

People that say this usually either don’t have good people and permission skills, or are trying to discourage you from hunting areas that they like to hunt or wish to hunt some day.   I’ve met some of the friendliest people I know and received permission after I’ve been told they never let anyone hunt anymore. Don’t listen to negativity.  It is tough to knock on a door, granted, but getting permission is not that difficult.  Look at permission as a continuous improvement process.  Look at it like Johnny Pryor does – it is just meeting people.   Take the pressure off and just try to meet people.  Be genuine, relax, and just tell the truth, and you’ll be fine.  With a little work on how you ask, you should expect to average 3 out of 4 yes’s, and most of the No’s will be friendly ones.  My response:  “Permission isn’t difficult to get.  You are.”


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