Digging Techniques

How to dig when metal detecting
Written By: Marc McDermott
Last Updated:

As a rule of thumb, a hand digger should be used on properties that are less than two acres. Anything over that you can start to think about a mid-sized digger for faster digging.

The hand digger tool of choice for most detectorists is the Lesche digging tool.

This tool can sometimes be referred to as a digging knife.

The digger is serrated on one side for easy digging and cutting through roots.

Typically if you’re right-handed, you’ll want the version that is serrated on the right side. Likewise, lefties will want serrations on the left side. Here’s why:

When you dig for a target, you want to dig what they call a ‘plug.’

Learning to dig a plug is a must for detecting on well-manicured lawns, as well as public parks and schoolyards.

While it’s much easier to demonstrate visually, I’ll try my best to explain exactly how to do this:

Five steps to digging the perfect plug

Step 1

When you come across and pinpoint a target that you want to dig, take out your hand digger and get down on your knees.

From the exact spot your target is, back off about 3-5” and stick your digger in the ground.

Step 2

In a counter-clockwise motion, start cutting away at the grass sod until you’ve formed a horseshoe-like shape around your target (you’re not cutting a complete circle).

When cutting into the grass, be sure to go down a minimum of 3” (even if your target it only 1”). This will ensure you’re not killing any of the grassroots.

Step 3

Once you’ve cut around your target, use your digger to pry open and flip the plug onto its head. Remember you cut the plug in a horseshoe shape so the part that you did not cut will now act as a hinge to flip open your plug.

The grass of the plug should now be completely upside down on top of the grass adjacent to the hole.

Step 4

Take out your towel (I like to use a 1×2’ towel) and lay it down in the grass directly in front of the hole.

If you don’t see your target right away, use your handheld pinpointer to first check the plug, then the hole.

If you need to dig away additional dirt from either the plug or the hole, put it on your towel.

Step 5

Once you’ve recovered your target, lift up both ends of your towel and slide any dirt back into the hole.

Flip your plug back over and press down firmly. Step on it with your foot a few times to make sure it’s in there good. Use your hand to brush the grass so it’s not matted down.

Like I said, easier to demonstrate visually than to write out.

This may seem like overkill for some, but taking care of the land you’re detecting is imperative and part of the code of ethics.

So take it seriously.

Next chapter: Must-Have Tools and Accessories