Door knocking for metal detecting permission is one of the most stressful things to do for most of us. Unfortunately, if you are not asking permission to metal detect private property you are really missing out! Without gaining access to private property you are really limiting yourself to places that have surely been detected previously if not many times over.
Here is a list of guidelines I would recommend following when asking permission to metal detect a property:
Dress for the occasion – If I am trying to gain permission for an old house in town I will knock on the door in a clean pair of pants and a shirt, most likely a button up. I am not fancy but I don’t go asking permission looking like a slob. On the other hand, if I am going to talk to a farmer about metal detecting his land, I will go in my metal detecting clothes, often times after I’ve been metal detecting. The point is if you go to a farmer asking permission in a suit you are probably going to get turned away. Same goes for a nice house in town, you do not want to show up with mud on your knees and sweaty from out metal detecting all day, you will probably get a no!
Have a pitch – Go to the door with an idea of what you are going to say. By no means would I recommend going off of a script but don’t stammer around. Avoid “uhm”, stuttering, repeating yourself and any other bad habits you might have.
Wear a smile – A smile will go a long way! I recommend going to the door with no fear or learn to fake it really good. You have nothing to lose! If you look nervous it is going to hurt your chances of getting permission.
Eye contact – Eye contact is important! You do not need to stare into their eyes nonstop but I would recommend the majority of the time looking them in the eyes!
Finding common ground – if you know any friends you might have in common. If there is something interesting about their property or house. Anything that might lighten the mood and get them receptive to discussing permission. Start with something else before you jump right into asking permission.
Don’t go alone – Although it is rare, myself and others in the hobby have had issues door knocking and I would never recommend going alone. However, only one person should go to the door. If you are the one knocking on the door, as soon as you can you should mention your friend in the vehicle so they know someone else is there. If you’re in the vehicle smile and wave if they look your way.
Keep your word – A common problem in the metal detecting world and I have heard it several times from landowners. I stop, knock on the door and the people are nice but when I ask for permission, they are very hesitant. Why? They gave someone permission in the past who told them they would give them what they find but they want to take it home and clean it first then they never see them again. You don’t have to agree to give up all your finds but if you come to an agreement to give up your finds and you don’t, not only could it possibly effect you down the road it hurts all detectorists. If someone wants all the finds from their property you have to decide if you are willing to do so and if you agree, stick to it!
Dig divots – I learned this from the great Keith Wills. When you start talking about digging holes in someone’s yard it is often a deal breaker. Even though they are small I think sometimes in the owners mind we are digging big, massive holes! Divots is a much better word to use.
Knock empty handed – Don’t show up at the front door with your metal detector in hand! I know this should not have to be said but I have heard of people out metal detecting in neighborhoods and walking up to the door with detector in hand. Take it back to your vehicle before you go ask for a new permission or leave your detector in the yard you’re already in. I would also recommend taking off your pouch or anything else you might have with you!
Below is an actual conversation I used to gain permission for a house site that I was told by someone else that the homeowner would not let anyone metal detect his property. He had never asked permission from himself but knew someone who knew the homeowner. He was known as being a difficult person. I will break it down for you as I go
I rang the doorbell then stepped onto the first step. By doing this I came off a little less intimidating. At 6 ft 3 and 300 lbs I feel its best if I don’t hover right at the front door and by stepping down one step I don’t look nearly as intimidating.
He answered the door and in a not so friendly tone “what do you need?”
With a big smile on my face I asked him about his 64 Chevy Pickup and instantly he had a smile on his face. I shook his hand and introduced myself. We went over and took a walk around the old truck while we talked.
After a few minutes I turned the conversation to his house. I mentioned the beautiful woodwork on the gable ends and under the soffit. I quickly realized he loved his beautiful old house as much as the old truck. We talked about when it was built, what had been done to the house over the years then I went into how I love history and it was why I had actually stopped.
I have learned over the years it is better to just give the information needed. At this point I do not go into a bunch of detail. In as few words as possible I ask permission to look for old relics in the ground.
He was very intrigued and interested so we discussed it thoroughly. He asked me questions about what I might expect to find. I always say artifacts from previous owners, I do not bring up gold and silver. Not to be deceiving but I feel like if you mention anything that could be of value suddenly they think you’re going to get rich from their yard and we all know it is even rare to find anything of any significant value.
He asked me what would happen with everything I found. I told him I would dispose of any trash. The good finds would be cleaned and put in a display box or I would happily give them to him.
I was granted permission fairly easily. After I was done for the day but not done with the yard, I showed him everything I found. I could tell he would like to have the relics but declined. I took them home, cleaned them, put them in a display case and took them back to him about a week later to give to him. He was very excited to have relics from his yard to display in his home and in return I was allowed to come back anytime I wanted and in the future, it turned into him helping me get permission at other sites.
Although I will never be completely comfortable knocking on someone’s door to ask permission, I also do not want to keep hunting the same old worn out parks and schools. If you are struggling to door knock rehearse a little bit and just remember, you have nothing to lose but a lot to gain!