Metal detectorists that haven’t been taking their hobby into the woods or to a river are missing out on some great digging opportunities. You never know when you’ll come across an old homestead or a popular river crossing where you’ll find all kinds of historic items.

Detecting in the woods and rivers can be challenging though so it’s best to be prepared, whether you’re just going out for a couple hours or all day.

Tip 1: Carry a Bag

Pack a bag with the essential metal detecting tools you need and make sure to leave room for extra items you’ll want to have. Since you’ll presumably be walking a while, especially if you go into the woods, you’ll need to carry more items than you would with a park hunt. It requires much more preparation than simply hunting in your backyard.

I like to keep a bag in my trunk at all times that’s stuffed with all the essentials I might need in case an impromptu hunt opportunity presents itself.

Below, be sure to take a brief moment to use our interactive table to effortlessly compare some of the more popular metal detectors on today’s market:

PhotoModelWeightPriceRatingSpecialty
Garrett AT PROGarrett AT PRO3 lbs.$$$★★★★Use in Water up to 10 ft
Tesoro Sand SharkTesoro Sand Shark4.5 lbs.$$$★★★★10.5 Search Coil
Garrett Infinium LSGarrett Infinium LS5.5 lbs.$$$★★★★★ 730 Pulses per Second
Bounty Hunter QSI Quick SilverBounty Hunter QSI Quick Silver4 lbs.$$★★★★8” Waterproof Coil
Viper TridentViper Trident4.2 lbs.$$$★★★Waterproof up to 132 ft.
Minelab Excalibur II 1000Minelab Excalibur II 10005 lbs.$$$★★★★★Underwater Detector
Fisher 1280X-8Fisher 1280X-85 lbs.$$$★★★★★Submersible up to 250 ft
Cobra WaderCobra Wader4 lbs.$$$★★★★10" Coil

Tip 2: Bring Bug Spray

You might think you’re tough enough to go without bug spray, and you might be right in most cases. I generally never use bug spray when I’m metal detecting.

But one outing convinced me to always have bug spray on hand during forest digs. I was swarmed by so many mosquitos in one shady section that I was bitten four times within a minute. I couldn’t run out of there fast enough, despite getting a couple good signals.

Another reason bug spray is a good idea in the woods is because it will offer some protection against ticks. Ticks are to be avoided whenever possible because they carry a number of diseases, including Lyme disease.

Tip 3: Don’t Forget Water

You’ll need to carry some drinking water with you when you are out in the woods. There won’t be any water faucets nearby like there would be with a park hunt. You should carry some extra bottles in case you get lost or decide to stay later than you intended.

Tip 4: Pack as Light as Possible

You’re going to need to bring a shovel, your detector and your bag with you. But watch how heavy that bag is — if you’re walking into the woods, who knows how far you’ll go? You don’t want to exhaust yourself carrying a heavy bag for miles.

Tip 5: Carry a Cell Phone

The woods can be a beautiful place, but it can also be dangerous at times. You’ll have to be on the lookout for animals. Getting lost is always a reality when you go into the woods. And depending upon the terrain, there’s also the chance of falling down and injuring yourself.

Bringing a cell phone will help protect you in case you have an accident and need help. If you find a big, heavy treasure, you’ll also need that phone to call your trusted friends to help you drag it back to your vehicle.

Below, please take a moment to view some of the best-selling metal detectors currently available on Amazon:

  1. Bounty Hunter Junior
  2. Bounty Hunter Tracker IV
  3. Garrett Ace 250
  4. National Geographic PRO Series
  5. Fisher F4

Tip 6: Bring a Heavy Duty Full-Size Shovel

In the woods, you’re going to encounter tree roots that will make you want to cry. You’ll need the power of a full-sized shovel just to cut through them to get to any signals you find. If you’re at the river, the amount of gravel and rocks you’ll have to work through will be impossible if you don’t have the right equipment with you.

Tip 7: Have Gloves with You

I’m not a big fan of metal detecting while wearing gloves. They can be bulky and I feel like they get in my way for almost everything I try to do out there. But, I do always have gloves in my bag, and hunting in the woods or near a river is the primary reason why.

If you’re hunting in the woods, you’re going to come across some plants you really don’t want to touch – like poison ivy. Plus, the insects are all over the place out there. I’m not particularly squeamish when it comes to bugs, but I’ve had enough spider bites to know I don’t want any more.

Gloves are also a good idea when you’re hunting at rivers.

Tip 8: Have a Reason for Being There

If you’re going treasure hunting with a metal detector in the United States, you can hunt through some woods without finding much of anything. If you’re hunting in Europe, you have a better chance of finding something during a random woods hunt because they have a much longer, richer history than we have had here.

So, if you want to go into the woods to hunt, do your research and make sure you find a site that’s worth your time. Those sites might be:

  • Old settlements.
  • Dumps.
  • Camp grounds.
  • Single homesteads.
  • Old footpaths.

Tip 9: Have a Compass

Depending how deep in the woods you plan to go, a compass is always a good idea. You might just intend to go into the edge of the woods, but one thing leads to another and before long, you find yourself deep in the woods and you’re not sure how to get out. If you haven’t left a trail of breadcrumbs, you’d better have a compass handy, or you’ll be using that cell phone you’re carrying to call a search party.

Tip 10: Find Some Water

If you see a body of water, like a creek, stream, lake or river, start there. At some point in time, people likely used that water source for drinking, washing or swimming. If people were there, there’s a good chance they dropped something that might be of interest to you.

You can search around the shoreline and if you have an underwater metal detector, you should also check out the shallow area of the water where people would have waded in and possibly lost any jewelry they were wearing.

Tip 11: Head for High Ground

If you’re looking for older items, you’ll want to think like people did back then. If you see any higher areas of the woods you are in, you should search there. People who were looking for places to build a homestead sometimes valued higher ground because they were able to see people coming. If they had any enemies or lived in a hostile area, that vantage point likely proved useful.

Tip 12: Look for Old Trees

One of my favorite metal detecting tips is to hunt around the biggest, oldest trees you can find. If they are huge, chances are people have been using them as shade for the better part of a century. And if people were standing or sitting under them for extended periods of time, there’s a good chance they dropped things while they were there.

Tip 13: Search for Old Foundations

Try to find areas that look like they were an old homestead. The house will likely be long gone, but you may see foundation stones. You could possibly see fruit trees gathered in one place – that’s a tip that a homesteader may have been there at one point.

Tip 14: Be Ready to Fight Tree Roots

When you’re hunting in a forest, you’re going to be in the fight of your life against tree roots. They’ll be everywhere, and it will be a struggle to cut through them. You may have problems getting to some targets, even with a good shovel on hand.

Tip 15: Look for Shallow Areas

When you’re at the river or a waterway, look for shallower areas that might have been a crossing at one point for people. If people crossed the river on foot or in a wagon, they might have dropped something on their journey.

Tip 16: Bring a Strong Magnet

Detecting in creeks or rivers can be murky work. Once you muddy the waters by digging, it can be hard to see what you’re digging up. That’s when a high-powered magnet can come in handy. If you drag that across the area you’ve just dug, it can pick up your target, despite your lack of visibility.

Tip 17: Be Prepared to Dig Trash

If you’re hunting at the edge of a river, you’re going to encounter trash – lots of trash. There’s going to be fish hooks, scrap metal, cans and all kinds of litter. You’re going to have to use your discrimination mode.

Tip 18: Watch Out for Hooks

There are going to be a lot of old rusty fish hooks in your future if you’re hunting by the river, and you don’t want to stab yourself with one of those hooks and have to go to the doctor for a tetanus shot.

You should always be careful while metal detecting, but I like to be extra cautious while I’m metal detecting at rivers because there are many opportunities for injuries if you don’t pay attention to what you’re doing.

Tip 19: Bring a Buddy

When hunting in remote places like riverbanks and woods, I always think it’s best to go with the buddy system. There’s so many things that can go wrong when you’re out there by yourself, and if you’re using headphones, you might not have any warning before something bad happens.

Detectorists carry highly valuable equipment, which could be tempting to would-be thieves who see the detectorist alone in a remote location, not paying attention to the world around them. I’ve never had any problems with stranger danger when I’ve been detecting, but on all remote hunts, I try to bring a friend just in case.

Tip 20: Watch Out for Slippery Rocks

Rivers are a fun place to metal detect, but you need to watch out for slippery rocks. It’s really easy to slip and fall when you’re trying to find a good location on the riverfront, or if you’re trying to wade into shallow waters.

That’s no reason to avoid river hunts, but you’ll want to keep that in mind when you’re trying to navigate your hunt site.

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