If you’re new to metal detecting, you’re probably excited about going out and seeing what you can find. However, first you need to know how to stay out of trouble.

In our previous post, “Mistakes to Avoid When Using Metal Detectors,” we mentioned that some newcomers forget to get permission to metal detect in certain areas. But how can you know when you need permission or when metal detecting just isn’t allowed? Read this blog to learn three places where you shouldn’t metal detect — if you know where you can’t go, you’ll be able to enjoy your new hobby without incurring fines or criminal charges.

  1. Private Property Without the Owner’s Permission

You probably already guessed that you can’t just walk onto your neighbor’s yard and start hunting for metal without asking first. However, residential areas aren’t the only places that you need to get the property owner’s permission to enter.

Some of the best places to use your metal detector will be on private lands, like old or abandoned properties that have seen lots of human activity in the past. If you go metal detecting on these properties, you may make some excellent finds — but only if you don’t first incur the wrath of the property owner.

Even if a property looks abandoned, someone still probably owns it. Do your research before you enter any property to see who owns it, and contact them for their permission to enter. If you don’t get verbal or written permission before you enter, you could be charged with trespassing and possibly damage to the property, depending on your activities there.

  1. Some Public Lands

If a property doesn’t belong to a private citizen or corporation, it probably belongs to either the state or federal government. Some publicly owned lands welcome metal detectors, and some place restrictions on them.

If the public land is a national park or monument, or if the land belongs to the state, then you’ll have to check with the office for that specific piece of land to find out their policies. They may allow metal detectors in certain areas or not at all, or they may require that you get a permit in advance. Some public lands also require that you show any items you find to a ranger.

You’re generally safe to use a metal detector as a hobbyist on land that belongs to the National Forest Service and the Federal Bureau of Land Management. However, you may still need to be careful. While these two agencies generally allow recreational metal detecting, they place areas of archaeological or historical importance off limits. Check with a ranger about the specific land that you want to visit to make sure it isn’t restricted.

If metal detecting is allowed, make sure that you follow good practices so that the hobby will stay open to future visitors after you. Try to leave as small an impact as possible on the vegetation and landscape as you search and dig. If you leave a mess, then the public lands may not always be open for hobbyists like you.

  1. Archaeological Sites

If you’re on public lands, you should already know to avoid the areas that the agency has marked off as restricted for metal detecting due to their historical or archaeological value. However, if you’re metal detecting somewhere else, and you find items that seem to have real historical or archaeological value, you need to stop what you’re doing right away.

Several federal acts provide protection for archaeological sites on federal land, including the American Antiquities Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. If you brake these laws, you could face heavy fines or even jail time.

If you find artifacts that seem to have more than incidental value, stop metal detecting and notify an official. They’ll investigate the site and determine if it should be protected by these laws.

Additionally, whether you’re on a private or public land, if you find a Native American burial site, you need to stop. These places are protected by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Report the burial site to the appropriate authorities and leave it alone — not only would continuing to dig be against the law, but it would be disrespectful to the people who were buried there long ago and their living descendants.

You have so many options for where to go to try out your metal detector. As you gain experience with your new hobby, make sure you follow the rules for where you go so you can keep enjoying metal detecting without worrying.

If you would like to rent or buy a metal detector in the Denver, CO, area, call or visit Rocky Mountain Coin. We offer a variety of metal detector brands and types, and we’re sure to find something that fits your needs whether you need to rent it for a day or own it for the next decade.