Police Encounters While Detecting

I’ve watched a few social media videos of metal detectorists having encounters with law enforcement over the past couple of years and , by and large, the officers involved are mostly curious about the activity we engage in. That’s normal for a police officer. We are inquisitive people and we delve a little further into something we may not be familiar with. Most times in the videos, once we understand why a guy or gal is digging in a park or along a curb strip while carrying a machine we’re not familiar with, we move on…unless there is a law, rule or statute being violated.

That’s where the rub is.

In the handful of what I hold as ‘anti-police’ metal detecting videos, detectorists have made some pretty outlandish statements and comments…followed by very imflammatory remarks by viewers who obviously hold police in very low regard. I have to think those folks have either had a bad experience with law enforcement in the past or just don’t understand the function of police in today’s societal environment.

I speak from experience, having been on both sides of this particular fence.

As a detectorist, I understand why I might be approached by a police officer. Usually, they want to know what I’m doing and, after explaining and then showing them some of the trash I’ve removed from, say, a park, they’re satisfied and tell me to have fun as they leave. The biggest suggestion I might have for folks who are approached by law enforcement is to be friendly and respectful. Don’t argue; that’s almost an invitation for trouble and you may find yourself arguing in a court of law. Some of you may invite an event such as that, but how many can afford the cost of an attorney and lost wages because you had to be away from your job in order to state your case to a judge?

I’ll be the first to say that there are bad coppers out there, just like there are bad teachers, bad doctors, bad truck drivers…you get the point. Some of these police officers or deputies have no business wearing a badge, period. Here’s what you do to combat that issue: know the law. Get permission before hunting a property. Call or visit your local government administrators and find out if you are permitted to hunt a park, curb strip or lake area, research local laws and statutes to see if metal detecting is permitted on public lands in your area. If approached by law enforcement, give them the name of the person you spoke with who gave you permission or, better still, have in your possession a signed permission document. If they still insist you leave, pack up your gear and go; you can recontact your local government administrator later and explain what happened, allowing them to correct the situation. If you feel you’ve been mistreated by the officer, call the police department or sherrif’s office and ask to speak to a supervisor.

Again, DO NOT ARGUE, period. Nothing good will come of it, and I’m sure you have a list of other locations where you know you can metal detect. Remember, if you disrespect police or give them a reason to dislike metal detectorists, you’re not only hurting yourself but also hundreds of thousands of us fellow detectorists.






Be Careful With Bug Juice


I finally got around to deep-cleaning my metal detecting gear, an annual task that I’ve been putting off because of the mild winter weather us Ohioans have been experiencing. While doing it, I realized just how badly deep-woods bug repellent can damage headphones.

If you didn’t already know, the more concentrated repellent will eat plastic and rubber. Kinda makes you wonder how it keeps from doing the same to your skin, doesn’t it?

The AT Pro that I use is nearing three years old and, believe me, it’s been used a lot. I’d been very satisfied with its performance until a point last year where I began having problems with the internal electronics of the control unit; a couple of e-mails to Garrett’s customer service department resulted in the unit’s replacement, though the same thing happened about a month after they’d sent me a brand new one. Both times the control head was replaced during smooth interaction with the company and I was very satisfied with the outcome each time; though my machine was less than one month out of warranty that first incident they still covered it. That, folks, is great customer service.

A couple of months ago I visited several online metal detecting websites in search of replacement ear pads for my headphones because the ones I had had started to crack badly. I couldn’t find them anywhere. I emailed Hilda at Garrett once again, explaininig what I needed; she reponded that the ear pads aren’t sold individually, but that she would send me new ones, free of charge, as soon as they were back in stock, even though I offered to pay for them. A few weeks later a package arrived in the mail…containing exactly one new pad.

I had to chuckle, imagining myself as a one-eared detectorist.

I broke down and bought a brand-new Garrett head set; in addition to the ear  and head pads being in bad shape, the sound wire connecting the left ‘phone to the right one was cracked, causing me to intermittently lose sound in my left ear. I’d field-fixed it with the roll of black electrical tape I carry in my metal detecting knapsack, repeating the repair several times throughout the season, but it was just time to buy new ones.

…and I’ll be extremely careful the next time I apply bug juice to my head and ears before a hunt in the woods or a creek.



Small Loot And A Bad Hunt

“A bad day detecting is better than a good day working.”

Yeah, we’ve heard that before and, generally, it’s true; however, when you’re retired like I am the saying is the exception more than the rule.

I got out Sunday afternoon for three hours or so, traveling to a wooded area next to a river where I found a Spanish reale last September. I went probably 200 yards beyond where I’d been hunting in previous trips, a flat patch of ground sparsely populated by pine trees, scrub brush and dead, dry reeds.

The reeds should have been a tip-off; those things grow mainly in wet or swampy areas, as my boots soon found out. My steps were accompanied by a ‘shluck’-ing sound each time I picked up a foot but, luckily for me, I only had to traverse about twenty yards’ worth of very spongy ground. My boots felt like they weighed ten pounds each.

Finally reaching semi-solid ground I activated my Garrett machine, ground-balanced it and started scanning an area near the base of a steep rise. This spot saw a settlement very near by that dates to the early 1800s; none of the buildings or foundations still exist, having been built upon forty years ago. The reale in the river, dated 1786, had purely been a stroke of luck; however its recovery is what keeps me going back to that area.

There has to be more. Maybe not reales, but definitely more coins and artifacts.

I dug a lot of trash and iron scrap this day. The area is just saturated with so many iron nails, hinges and plain old UFOs…Unidentified Ferrous Objects…that in spots it’s almost impossible to hunt. However…I did find a couple of interesting relics, athough I didn’t know just how interesting until earlier today.

The first I knew was probably pretty decent: the wick-burning aperture from a small oil lamp, found in the side of that steep rise and down about four inches. I brushed it off enough to see what it was, then secured it in the large, zippered left-side pocket of the fishing vest I wear when I’m detecting…er, dirt-fishing. The inside of the bottom part of it was packed with dirt and would take some work getting it cleaned.

The second decent target turned out to be a silver-plated ( at one time ) old spoon, I’m guessing from the late 1800s by the design on the handle. The handle as well as the bowl section were both bent almost in half, found at about six inches and fifteen yards away from the oil lamp part. It, too, went in the zippered pouch.

The rest of the hunt was uneventful and the waist-bag that I keep trash finds in was bulging by the time I made it back to my truck. To top it off, as I lifted the handle on the tailgate to open it…it broke. Daggone plastic parts!

This morning, I remembered the finds I’d made were still in the vest, so I gathered my cleaning gear and went to work. Not long after I was rewarded by  numbers and letters revealed during cleaning on the thumb wheel…’Pat Sept 8 1862′. Outstanding!

Kinda makes all that iron junk worth it.

Then there was today. Bright, sunny skies, fifty degrees but extremely strong winds, 20-30 miles per hour with occasional gusts approaching fifty. Not too bad for conditions, right?


I didn’t mention that it had rained heavily Monday night into Tuesday, hard enough that there are still puddles of standing water in a couple of low-lying areas of my yard. Nonetheless, finding the date on that oil lamp piece motivated me to get out for awhile around noon, so off I headed to one of my go-to spots…the abandoned farm.

Forty-five minutes later I was back home; they may have forecast fifty degrees, but the ‘real-feel’ temp on my phone said it felt like 35. Not having dressed for the wind chill or the wet ground…I sat down to dig a deeper target and discovered just how soaked the earth still was…I packed it in after only having found metallic trash.

I needed dry blue jeans anyway.


Permission From A Hero

In retirement I picked up a side job, one that only takes a couple of hours a week but provides an immense sense of satisfaction and enables me to interact with true patriot heroes.

I write about our veterans from wars past in a weekly newspaper column.

Yesterday I had the distinct honor of sitting down with a ninety-two-year-old man who fought in World War Two, a man who had quite a story to tell…not all of it connected to his military service to our country. We conversed for two hours in his living room, in a house that sits on a part of his once 600-acre farm. Much of the land he’d sold off for development once he retired, and the farm now consists of 77 acres.

Near the end of my visit, Jack told me a story about losing some equipment attachments years ago, brand new forks for the hydraulic lift on his Ford tractor. “I put them down somewhere between the old milk house and the drive because I had to change the hinge settings on the tractor’s hydraulics, which would take some time, and I forgot about them.” I asked how large the forks were and he told me. “They’re about four feet long, they’re used for picking up rolled bales of hay.”


I told Jack about my passion for metal detecting. My buddy Ron, who lives about a quarter-mile from Jack and knows him pretty well, would surely help in finding the forks, so I volunteered our services. “I would be grateful if you found those things because they were brand-new thirty years ago!” he laughed, “and you guys can keep whatever else you might find.”

What an opportunity! The farm had been in Jack’s family for well over a century; the original farmhouse, a classic two-story structure from the 1920s, still stands, unoccupied. Jack and his wife, who died four years ago, had built a new home when he’d retired in 2000, on the west edge of the property; the old house sits amongst a collection of smaller buildings used for storage and other farm purposes. “I’d only ask that you let me know when you’re going to be out there”, he said, “so I know it’s not someone I don’t know prowling around on my land.” Though Jack has trouble walking, is blind in one eye and doesn’t hear very well now, I’d taken note of the rifle leaning against a wall next to the rear patio door, one which opens onto a deck that overlooks the old house. Ron and I certainly wouldn’t want to come under fire while detecting with our headphones on, so we’d be sure to stop and visit with Jack for a few minutes prior to working his property.

…and I can’t wait!