So, you’re interested in trying out field hunting how do you get started? First, you need to find places to metal detect! Again, I would advise against just randomly walking farm fields, you want to find where houses and activity was going on.
One of the easiest, if available in your area is map overlaying. There are many Youtube videos and you can check out my article here on All Metal Mode I wrote a few years ago. I also did a video on Youtube a few years ago that you can find at the end of this article. With practice you can get extremely accurate at doing overlays the way I do them. Although there are other ways to overlay and even easier ways I have stuck with my method as I find it to be the most accurate for me.
There is also an app you can use that is easier than overlaying called Maprika. It’s actually a skiing app but works great for finding sites. One of the great things about this app is while you’re driving down the road it will actually show you where the house or site you’re looking for was. The problem I’ve found is sometimes, especially when working with a bigger overlay is it can be off in some areas but still a great tool to have in your toolbox.
Now that you know where some sites are next you will need to find out who owns them to ask for permission. I’m fortunate that in the majority of the areas I metal detect I can go to the auditor’s website page and look at their map to find out who owns the land. In some states it’s called something different so you might have to do a little research in your area to see what county office has that in your area. Some counties don’t even have an online interactive map and you will have to go into their office. Before the internet was popular, I used to have to go visit the counties auditor office and get landowners names. Having visited several they were never busy and always eager to help me.
There is another great app you can use that will save you a lot of time if you don’t want to spend hours tracking down landowners. Although I’ve never used it or at least not yet it is called onX. It is an app designed for game hunters that shows you land boundaries and gives you information on the owner. It is however an app that you have to pay for. Have you read everything so far and it sounds like to much work? What if I told you I find a lot of my sites and many of the best sites by keeping an eye out while driving. With a little bit of knowledge of what to look for it is easy to do!
One of the easiest ways to find house sites is finding the driveways over ditches. If you look at figure 1 you will see the farmhouse on the left of the picture. Now if you look at the arrow I added pointing to a driveway now ask yourself why that driveway over the ditch exists? One big possibility is it could be so the farmer can get his tractor and equipment into the field but upon a little research I found out that the farmhouse in the picture owns this land and the fields are accessible from his house and barn. I asked permission to search around and after walking straight back from that driveway over the ditch I found where a house had once existed.
If you keep your eyes open while driving you will start to notice these often and if the field is accessible from other locations more often than not it will lead you to a site. Let’s take a look at figure 2. When I first started metal detecting this property, I only knew of house site #1. Actually, when I first started metal detecting it there was a barn still standing. Whenever you have permission for farmland, I always recommend checking out the rest of the property because oftentimes, much like this example you will find other sites to metal detect. After metal detecting site 1 several times I was ready to move on and explore the field before I was Figure 2 (photo courtesy of Google Earth Pro) Figure 3 (photo courtesy of Google Earth Pro46 completely done with the property. I first decided to explore the area where site 2 is and I believe it to have been a school or church site and not a house site from the relics I pulled off of it. Again, after several hunts and ready to explore more of the field I stumbled upon site 3 which was an early site where many great artifacts were recovered.
Once I was satisfied I had hunted it out I started exploring more of the field and after hours I came across site 4. Yet again another great producing site! Every time I visited the property, I parked at site 1 and walked. After a day of metal detecting site 4 I took the road that site 2 and 3 come off of. I had never taken that road before but I was going to another site that I wanted to get permission for. I noticed something peculiar. There was a driveway over the ditch leading to site 3 (figure3) and suddenly a light bulb went off. After I left the new site I was exploring I drove back by this property and found that there were driveways over the ditches for site 2,3 and 4! This was when I realized I needed to start looking for these driveways. All the fields are accessible from where site 1 was and the most recent farmhouse to be torn down. If I would have known to look for driveways over ditches I would have found those other sites much quicker and I wouldn’t have had to spend hours walking the fields looking for more sites!
Another way I have used to find sites to metal detect is following water. Creeks, rivers and water sources such as springs and ponds were very important to early settlers. While driving I am always on the lookout for high spots along creeks and rivers and I will also explore topographic maps and seek out the highest land along the creeks and rivers. Even if I do not find a house site that once existed around a spring, rarely do I come away empty handed. Springs were often used and important sites for travelers and early settlers.
Farmers and landowners are often quite easy to work with and rarely do get turned down. Respect their land, don’t drive in it, pick up trash and stay out of the fields when the crops are planted.
If you decide to give field hunting a try, I believe you will find some of your best and oldest artifacts. I will leave you with another article I just recently added to All Metal Mode, how to hunt field sites.
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Minelab Equinox 800
The Minelab Equinox 800 multi-frequency metal detector will grow with you as you learn. Used by beginners to serious metal detectorists who like to metal detect beaches, parks, old homes, fields, forests, deserts and more looking for relics, coins, jewelry, gold nuggets, and other treasures. Adaptable for all target types and ground conditions makes the Minelab Equinox a great metal detector.