How to Properly Recover a Target (plug Digging) with a Metal Detector

Knoji reviews products and up-and-coming brands we think you'll love. In certain cases, we may receive a commission from brands mentioned in our guides. Learn more.
How to properly recover coin sized objects in a park or other place where appearance is crucial.

How to properly dig a plug.

Whether you are new to the hobby of metal detecting, or have been doing it for a while, the act of recovering a coin in a finished grass area is often frustrating.

if done improperly, you can either be a detriment to the hobby, or downright destructive.

We will begin by assuming that you know how to properly operate your detector, and how to “pinpoint” or locate a target, and are ready to dig.

Also for the sake of simplification, we will assume that you are digging this in a public place like a park, where it is VERY important that you leave no trace of the hole as a courtesy.

It is essential that the hole be as small as possible, however if the hole is TOO small, you risk having to 'chisel away at the sides of the hole, and will end up making a bigger hole than you needed.

I have found that for coin sized objects, a 8” diameter hole will be sufficient, and I rely on my depth indicator for a depth, as for coin sized objects, most detectors will be very close (within a few inches) of the actual depth..

While not always true, this is a good guideline. If the depth display is telling you 4” and you have gone closer to 7” with no results, chances are the object is larger than a coin.

For proper “plug cutting” you will need the following items:

1.A Lesche brand digger (pictured), or a Tru temper or similar brand sod knife, (remember you are cutting through the root structure, and not digging.) or a large knife.

2.A piece of drop cloth, canvas or heavy cloth to place removed soil from the hole.

3.A pinpointing probe, although not required is handy. If cost is an issue, they can be obtained from Harbor Freight tools for around 15.0 (Cen tech brand)

Upon locating the rough area and depth of your target, begin cutting a 8” horseshoe shaped plug in a smooth, circular sawing motion, keeping the target centered. Keep the blade of the digging tool angled very slightly inward.

You will want to leave about the top ¼ of the plug attached. This is VERY important, as the root structure will be maintained if you do NOT cut a completely ROUND plug.

Cutting a completely round plug is not advised where the appearance of the grass is key. A totally round plug takes much longer to recover, and you risk killing the grass permanently.

A round plug is also easier for animals such as squirrels to remove, as they search for food. (this will happen, I have seen it)

A round plug also can be dislodged by a lawnmower.

Upon cutting the horseshoe plug, place the drop cloth next to the hole. Then pry gently, keeping the plug as intact as possible, and flip it gently upward, letting the attached top act as a hinge.

Often you will have the coin visible, so do a visible search of the hole. If nothing is located, run the pinpointing probe inside the hole, and the outer edge of the exposed plug. If nothing is located, use the detector to check the plug itself.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        If the target IS in the plug, gently go through the plug with your fingers or digging tool, placing all removed dirt on the drop cloth, using the pinpointer to locate it.

If the target is BENEATH the plug and still in the hole, gently remove small pieces of soil from the hole, placing them on the drop cloth, and searching with the pinpointer or waving handfuls of dirt in front of your detector coil, placing them back on the dropcloth.

By this point, you should have recovered your target.

Having your shiny in hand, now you need to fill in the hole.. But Wait!!! FIRST, you need to check the plug and hole with your detector AGAIN.. Many times I have recovered multiple targets from one hole.

OK, no more goodies..

First fold the drop cloth and pour the soil back into the hole, then gently tamp down the plug over the hole. Step on it a few times to ensure that it has seated properly, and you're done.

Metal Detecting is fun and rewarding.

Those of us that love it don't do it to get rich.....heck most of us will never pay for our machines.

I, myself have thousands of dollars into the equipment alone. We do it for the thrill of the hunt, to get outdoors, and to see things that have bee hidden for sometimes HUNDREDS of years.

That is why it so important that you do it in a respectful and responsible manner.

Happy Hunting.

BD Atherton