Knock, Knock, Who’s There?

I’ve noticed a lot of discussions lately about getting permission and knocking on doors.  Seems this simple act brings out the “wimp” in us.  Not sure why, but let me share my thoughts on this….


We all know that if you want to detect an old house or parcel of land, you will need to get approval from the owner.  So you knock on the door, it opens and someone says  “Get outta here” (remember I am from New Jersey), and slams the door in your face! 

Other than being put off and pissed off, what has just happened?  To be honest, absolutely nothing. You couldn’t walk onto their property before you asked, and still can’t.  Status quo.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Move on to the next property and repeat.

Without question the problem most detectorists have with knocking on doors is one of being nervous, and having to sell yourself to a stranger.  I understand all that, but you will never get good at it without doing it a few times and fine tuning your spiel.  Not everyone is good at selling, but those that are have found that comfortable niche or approach through trial and error. 

Confidence is not “will they like me”….confidence is “I’ll be fine if they don’t”


  • Many people today won’t even open their door to a stranger. Just the way it is…
  • Think how YOU would react to a stranger knocking on YOUR door, and asking permission to dig holes in YOUR lawn or property. We know we are experts at retrieving our finds, but that homeowner does not, and when he or she has to make a quick yes or no decision, they are most likely going to say no.
  • You only get one chance to make a good first impression, and just maybe your long hair, your clothing, your beard, your voice, your inability to sell yourself, will turn the landowner off.



I haven’t knocked on many doors of late, but when I did I would guess I had success in maybe one out of every three or four attempts.  After a year or two or three I found that sending a letter to the homeowner worked the best.  In my letter I….. 

  • Told them my name, where I lived and for how long.
  • Told them where I worked.
  • Told them my marital status (married, single, how many children, etc.)
  • Told them how long I had been detecting.
  • Told them how I retrieved a target without doing damage.
  • Told them about my working with local law officials.
  • Told them I could provide personal and/or business references if needed.
  • Told them I would not hold them liable.
  • Told them to think over my request, and that I would call them in a few days. 

I know this sounds like a lot of work, but it was effective, and putting something like this together today would be easy. You could make it generic in nature, and simply fill in the name and address.



  1. Do Leave your detector and digging tools at home or in the car.
  2. Do Dress decently – NO CAMO.
  3. Do have your spiel down and choose your words carefully.  Avoid words like “dig”, “damage”, “depth” etc..
  4. Do remember they own the property, not you.
  5. Do emphasize that you will not hold them liable for any accidents, and maybe have a “hold harmless” form with you.
  6. Do give them a day or so to think it over if they seem reluctant. The fact that you are not in a hurry or pushy will go a long way.

No matter what method you decide to try, don’t be discouraged, and always remember that being turned down changes nothing.  You couldn’t hunt that property before asking, and a “no” merely reinforces that. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

ding dong


Filed under Metal Detecting

24 responses to “Knock, Knock, Who’s There?

  1. wintersen

    I like this post. Full of useful information. One thing I might add (for UK guys) is to show them a FID or NCMD (detectorists’ organisation) card showing my picture and info about having valid insurance.

  2. Bigtony

    Dick, great article and interesting points that you make.
    You know it is funny to me that you mention, “I would be fine if they say no” – there are so many privates that you can’t miss.

  3. jbkeefer

    Solid advice.

  4. David Bastien

    With research I found where Braxton Bragg camped for a week. a site never searched.
    Farmer was nice, he did not know and said “Good Luck”. Found it reading (Clues) a Civil War Diary. So far 13 Bullets. Lots of good sites, but it is work. But really rewarding.

    Fall is better, less poison Ivy and after first frost, no biting insects. Also I found where Gen Patton trained before he left to go to Battle of Bulge, talk to old people. They know….

    This is not about money, never was. It is History, in your hand.

    • Nice going Dave. No question…when you spend a lot of time researching, it makes it even more rewarding when you finally find the spot. Keep us posted on you fare.

      Also have to agree with you on the season. Love the fall. As for old people….that would be me, and I am selling good sites for $100 each. Just send the money first.

  5. Bob K

    Dick very well put, I agree with you about a Nation Organization. I have one better about asking permission my wife loves to detect also and she goes along, she stands beside me. Don’t have the 1 in 3 it’s almost 2 or 3 out 3.
    even on city property, county or school property I ask and it’s paid off with more places to hunt that I didn’t know about.

  6. Good post. Can’t think of anything to add. Being upfront and letting them know who you are and what you are interested in doing can’t be beat. Being local and giving them the opportunity to check up on you is also a plus. Presenting yourself like that on private property will be helpful even though it won’t always prevent the ” Nos “

  7. Andy Baines

    Great post Dick, hope you don’t mind me putting a link to this on my blog to help some UK detectorists.


  8. Angelika

    Great article with a lot of useful advice! I’d also practice your spiel with neighbor’s, friends and family prior to hitting up people that you don’t know. I’m one of those people who won’t answer the door to strangers. Maybe approach the person when they are in their yard. Definitely show up dressed professional/or business casual. Show your interest in the historic value rather than monetary alone.

  9. Best post I’ve seen from you in a long time. While I’ll happily stand in front of 200 people to discuss my professional work, knocking on a door can make me quite nervous. Not because I’m afraid of the people coming to the door – but that I’m afraid I’m bothering someone. I think it’s a form of impostor syndrome.

    • Wow Scott, thanks. I think…?

      I am well aware my blog is different,and that’s why I share this on my welcome page.

      “Please note too that this is a “personal blog”, and as a result I may talk about my family, my dogs, my love of food and wine, my musical background, my memories, my aches, pains, warts and whatever else might come to mind. No guarantees…”

      Anyway glad I hit on something that you liked.

  10. Let me also add that getting permission back in the 70’s and 80’s was a helluva lot easier than it is today.

  11. I think you’re one of the few people involved in the community of detectorists who has a rational, down-to-earth approach, as well as a great deal of knowledge. However, while on this topic of attaining permission, we also have to include the fact that there are a great deal of individuals putting in jeopardy our passion. These are people who detect without permission, post videos of their outings (more often than not mishandling artifacts), destroy private property and stone walls. I’ve already encountered a handful of land owners who’ve been left with a bad impression after catching individuals detecting without permission, and because of this, they would not grant me permission. I’ve been involved and collaborated with historical societies, as well as assisting law enforcement, but all this means nothing to a bitter land owner who now perceives the rest of us as thieves and trespassers. The metal detecting community is not doing a good enough job of policing their peers and shunning those who behave unscrupulously: instead, these individuals collect pats on the back online for their unethical and reckless behavior. The interests of the many and the future of the hobby would be better served if we called out these individuals and groups.

    • Julio, thank you for a “spot on” analysis of our pastime. Unfortunately detectorists today are too busy promoting their finds and videos to see the forests for the trees. At least that is my opinion.

      Please don’t be a stranger here…

  12. Roger

    Hello all,
    Some good ideas here. The only problem here in Australia is that no harm papers or waivers aren’t worth the paper they are written on unfortunately as they have no legal standing. I have had very little success getting onto private property with one of the owners stating Public liability as the reason.

    I might sit down and write a request and see how I go with that as I have just about done the areas I can access to death.

    I agree with Julio as to the ratbag element. I got kicked out of a park because someone else had been digging large holes and leaving them open. Pointing behind me and asking where my holes were ( couldn’t be seen of course) got me nowhere . I also think the other bad influence is stupid TV shows like American Diggers where they use backhoes etc and over hype the whole scenario, then get BS prices for their stuff which only encourages the greedy and uncaring to go out and do the damage. Sorry to sound so negative as I have had some great times detecting and love doing it. 🙂

    • Thanks Roger. Apparently things are not much different “down under”, and it’s just another reminder that we really need to slow down before we don’t have a pastime. I have been called the “half empty guy” and even cruder names, for talking about these things but they’re happening, and we are all too busy cutting off our nose to spite our face.

      Please keep us updated on what’s going on in Australia, and thanks again.

  13. Digging History

    Hi Dick, great post and just what I needed to hear, I’ve gained a some confidence from it. As you know, this is one of my worries but your absolutely right, we should detach ourselves more from negative answers – I need to keep telling myself that if I get a “no”, it changes nothing and to move on.

    Cheers my friend and good fortune in every way, James 🙂

    • Glad it helped some James…I understand the reluctance detectorists have, and I also appreciate the landowners position if they do say no. Looking at both sides makes it a lot easier.

      Good hunting….

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