Ethics and the Art of Recovery


First Texas Products™ takes pride in the industry we serve, and ask you to join us in observing and promoting ethical and legal detecting practices, and in supporting dealers and organizations that do the same.

Before you begin your new adventure, realize that each time you go detecting you will be representing EVERYONE in this sport; all will be judged by your actions. Detectorists are a very visible group and the public knows what you are doing. That is why you must conduct yourself accordingly by learning proper recovery techniques and abiding by a code of ethics. Scars from improper or sloppy recovery methods can remain for years and further damage the image of this activity. This can only lead to tougher laws and regulations. Even in remote areas, it is very important to always leave no sign you were there.

Learn about your local laws regarding metal detecting especially on Federal, State, or County lands because they can vary significantly from state to state. Make the effort to search the local public records to verify the laws regarding metal detecting in your area BEFORE you go detecting. Do the same with State and Federal agencies that govern lands AND waters in your area.

If you will be hunting on private property you MUST obtain permission ahead of time and be absolutely certain you know the exact boundaries of the property or yard. Check with your County land records office (usually County Seat) to obtain information on how to research or obtain land ownership plats. In some places, this information is available online or you may be able to purchase a plat book for your County (some libraries also have copies you can view). These plat books are useful tools, showing owner’s name and boundaries, as well as Federal, State, and County-owned lands. However, it is your responsibility to still check with the landowner to verify the plat map is correct. Penalties and fines can be very costly. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse. Once you have a name, try to locate the owner’s address and pay him a visit. Introduce yourself, express your interest, and ask if he would allow you to metal detect on his property.

Your detector comes with the responsibility to detect and recover targets ethically. Your actions WILL affect the sport so be sure you portray yourself in the best possible way.

Explain your practices and how you will proceed. Always be polite, even if he turns down your request. If given permission, find out if there are any limitations he might have: certain times of the day, where to park your vehicle, certain areas that might be off limits, etc. Above all else, you must carefully cultivate the relationship between yourself and the landowner to ensure that you always have his/her best interest in mind. Often there may be others, such as hunters, using their property as well. Croplands might be leased to a farmer; buildings may be rented or leased to other families. If your activities offend any other users, they will also offend the owner and that will reflect negatively on the sport. You may even get kicked off the property. When you are on private property, your actions and activities must always be beyond reproach. You must always put the owner’s concerns above all else. And this is just as true if you are in a City Park or on school grounds. There are numerous cities across the country that have banned metal detecting on city property, and in nearly every case it is because of a careless detectorist that left holes and trash. Always respect the landowner!

Your detector comes with the responsibility to detect and recover targets ethically. Your actions WILL affect the sport so be sure you portray yourself in the best possible way. Look for a local dealer or club in your area. They can offer up-to-date information on local conditions and laws, and teach you proper recovery techniques. Joining a club is a great way to give a stronger voice to the activity. You will find that club members have a strong stake in keeping the sport healthy by watching for violators or those not using proper recovery techniques. The goal of most clubs is to educate and teach those in this activity. With your ethical participation, you will help ensure we can all enjoy this activity for years and years. Be Responsible!


  1. Always check Federal, State and local laws regarding metal detecting before searching.
  2. Respect landowners and always obtain permission before entering private property.
  3. Always use proper recovery methods. Fill all holes and do no damage.
  4. Always take your trash with you; leave the area better than you found it.
  5. Appreciate and protect our heritage of natural resources, wildlife, and private property.
  6. As an ambassador of the sport, use thoughtfulness, consideration, and courtesy at all times.
  7. Never damage or remove any historically significant or archeological treasures.
  8. Always leave gates as found, and never tamper with signs or equipment.
  9. Do not destroy property, buildings, or what is left of any deserted ghost towns or structures.

Method 1 (Probe)Probing method for recovery

Use this method to unearth shallow targets (1 to 4 inches), when the ground is dry and when the risk of damaging the grass is high. This method requires a bit more practice but is much less damaging to the grass than Method 2.

After pinpointing the target (as accurately as possible), use a probe to locate the target by pressing it down into the soil. A probe can be an ice pick or small screwdriver with the end rounded so as not to mar your target. Next, insert the probe just above the target center, and rotate slightly to open the ground. Now insert the probe just under the target at an angle and work the target to the surface. Brush all the loose dirt back into the hole and close by exerting pressure all around the opening. 

Plugging method for recoveryMethod 2 (Plugging)

Use this method only where allowed in natural wooded areas or fields, or in very moist lawn areas. Removing plugs from hard, dry ground can damage the grassroots and kill the grass within the plug, leaving a yellow “dead” spot that will remain long after you leave. This leaves a terrible image and needs to be guarded against.

After pinpointing the target, cut (using a digger or a sturdy blade) a half-moon shaped plug, 4-5” deep and 4-5” in diameter, around the center of your target. Cut straight down into the ground, but leave the one side of the plug attached. Cutting a hinged plug rather than an entire “plate” will properly orient its return, prevent removal by a lawnmower and lessen the chance of scratching your target. Most importantly it will allow the root system of the plug to remain intact, keeping the plug alive and green. 

Once cut, insert your knife or digger down opposite the hinge and carefully fold it back. Scan the plug and the hole to isolate the target location. If the target is in the plug, carefully probe until located, and carefully extract to minimize damage to roots and plug integrity. If the target is in the hole and not visible, use an electronic pinpointer or probe the bottom and sides of the hole until the target is located and removed. If you need to remove more dirt from the hole, carefully collect it on a rag or small tarp patch so it can be returned to the hole when finished. By placing any dirt on a cloth, it will keep the site clean and make it much easier to return to the hole. Replace all loose dirt with the plug, seat firmly and press it down with your foot to remove any air pockets. Done properly, you will leave no trace and the grass will remain healthy. 

Happy Hunting!