How to Get Permission to Metal Detect on Private Land

How to Get Permission to Metal Detect on Private Property? (2 Tips for Guaranteed Success)

Some of the best places I’ve ever searched were private property.   One of the houses ended up giving me “exclusive” search privileges.  It’s a 120-year-old mansion built during the logging boom.  It’s a dream to detect.  Visualize paths to the carriage house and in-laws house, old oak trees with remnants of swings in the branches and a small stream.

I’ll break down my permission technique:

  1. Find the property owner – use an app like LandGlide https://apps.apple.com/us/app/landglide/id560902465
  2. Look the property owner in the eyes.  As humbly as possible say – I know this is weird, but I’m a huge history buff and love metal detecting, is possible for me to metal detect on your property?
  3. Ask if they lost any keys or heirloom items that you could return. 
  4. Let them know you will be digging, but you will be careful and fill the holes to nearly invisible condition.
  5. Let them know, you’ll also pick up any trash like nails.

Some other items that have helped.  I don’t wear sunglasses.   I leave my gear in the car, don’t give folks a reason to object. 

Metal Detecting Tip:  1.  Share your finds…. Let the property owners know that you’d be happy to share in the treasure.  This has worked like magic for me.

Ideas From Others to Get Permission

 I thought it would be fun to toss this question out to the forum https://metaldetectingforum.com/ and see what answers the folks their came up with.

Here’s what I asked.

How do you get the courage to ask for permission?

Answer from Joe C.: “”This Is the Year”—-that’s what you need to tell yourself. This is the year I will break the ice and go ask permission to detect that old farmhouse/old piece of property I saw.”

Answer from Devon: “Good question, I personally haven’t tried asking for permission that much but others have done really well with this technique.”

Get Permission to Metal Detect
Get Permission to Metal Detect

Answer from DigMore:

1. Find out the name of the property owner first as it makes you look more ‘prepared’.

2. Think about what you’re going to ask the landowner.

3.After this initial introduction, answer any questions or concerns the property owner may have and, most important, do not lie! Lies will catch up sooner or later but most likely sooner.

4. First impressions are very important, so make sure you are clean, wear clean clothes, and NO SUNGLASSES! Direct eye contact is the best method to gain the property owner’s attention.

5. Know the neighborhood you are about to search. Take time to do some research, drive through it without a detector and make a list of the places that really look good to you.

6. If there are two or more of you hunting, send only one to the door, don’t have your buddies lounging around on the lawn with their equipment while you get the OK. The others should stay in the car until you walk back and tell them it is a go or no go.

7. Once you start hunting, wear headphones. Loud beeping will become a water torture to the owner and imply a multitude of valuable targets whether or not they are.

8. When asking permission, I always tell the home owner that I will show them anything I find before leaving. The key word is SHOW. Notice I didn’t imply “sharing”.

9. Have some prearranged hand signals with your partner if you find something neat, a tap on the top of the head might mean silver or relics.

10. By the way, it goes without saying – remove trash you find as well as treasure when you search a yard.

11. Don’t let a non-productive yard reflect on your attitude as you depart. It is not the owner’s fault that there was nothing there or that you failed to find your intended targets. Thank them for their hospitality as profusely as you would have you found $10 face value in old silver.

12. Lastly, treat the homeowners and their property with respect. Treasure hunting on someone’s property without permission is trespassing. Removing an item without permission is theft.

Metal Detecting Tip:  2. Carry dog biscuits in your detecting bag.  A high percentage of folks have dogs.  What better way to break the ice to explain you LOVE dogs.  And if they didn’t mind, you even have a dog cookie in your bag. 

Methods to Get Folks to GIVE You Permission

I used to be irritated when someone would interrupt my detecting out of curiosity. Now I realize that I was missing out on my best opportunity to get new sites to hunt. Now I look at every site I hunt as a potential connection to the next site I can hunt.

I don’t really hunt crowded public areas, but I smile and wave at every at any passerby on foot or in a vehicle that happens to look my way.  Even if it’s just a lady walking her dog.  (use the dog treat idea)

Often people stop and say “Have you found anything?” I will always pause and carry-on friendly conversation. I’ll tell what I’ve learned about the history of the area and am most often told something I didn’t know (ie “There used to be a church in that vacant lot across the street”).

I’ll also ask who owns certain property I am interested in detecting. I’ll sometimes get something like “Oh that’s Jake Howard’s place.  Just go tell him you know Sandy and Jim. He’s cool.”

Often, I’ll get folks telling me about a place that would be perfect. They’ll say something like –“If I were you, I’d hunt the old Kemper property. That family was rich and have lived in the area forever.” 

The best is when I get invitations “You’re welcome to hunt my house. It’s one of the oldest in town.”  When I hear that it’s like heaven is opening up giving me a gift.

Use a Permission Letter

I’m not a fan of this, but some folks have had some success.  Basically, the landowner signs a slip and gives you permission.  

Click on the picture below to download a FREE PDF permission letter:

Metal Detecting Permission Form
Metal Detecting Permission Form

Another Place to Detect

Most of the time public parks and fairs are excellent places to metal detect.  If it’s not posted, spend a couple minutes searching the web to see if metal detecting is not allowed on the municipality website.   

At this point assume that you can, but if challenged – plead ignorance and say you didn’t know and will stop immediately.

Most times nothing will come of it.  It’s those times that you ask – is when you’ll be denied.  It’s just easier for the municipality works to just say no, than to help a detectorist.  


If you’d like more articles about metal detecting check out the links below.


David Humphries, Writer and Creator of METAL DETECTING TIPS. After borrowing my son’s detector and finding $.25. I felt like a treasure hunter. FREE MONEY! I was seriously bitten by the metal detecting bug.

Scroll to Top