They are the burden of every responsible detectorist who tries to go about this hobby in a ethical and controlled way. With morals set as low as a snakes belly it seems nothing will get in the way of their desire to score valuable artefacts and coins whilst tainting the perceived image of anyone else who participates in metal detecting.
Some argue nighthawks are not as big a problem as is made out but from my own experiences of trying to gain a permission to metal detect on farmland, this is not the case.
I have knocked on many of the farmers door within a 10 mile radius of my home and a very high percentage of them say no due to the fact they have allowed a metal detectorist permission to search their land before and within no time random detectorists have seen this and though they could just walk on and detect. Many people think nighthawks only go out at night and detect on scheduled sites, this is not true. A nighthawk is anyone using a metal detector on any land they do not have permission to be on. It doesn't matter if its a scheduled site or arable or pasture, if they have not obtained permission from the landowner they are nighthawks.
Of course there is a lot of arguments and debates about nighthawks with some detectorists claiming that archaeologists are taking part in a smear campaign to make it look like detectorists are up to no good. There is also a lot of talk that most of the unfilled holes are caused by wild animals such as badgers. Whilst any of these reasons could be valid to a certain degree I think there is no doubt that there are a fair few nighthawks contributing to this damage.
So, how do we stop the problem? As I see it there are a few options although as with any type of crime you will never be able to stop it altogether, because if there is easy money to be made someone will always take that chance. This means the only options we really have are instead of trying to completely stop it, we need to make it more difficult for the nighthawks to do what they do.
Obviously as touched on with the last blog post we could start making it harder to buy and sell dug up items with documentation needed, this will slow them down. I think the biggest impact though can be made by all of us metal detectorists, we know what to look out for and we know the signs. It doesn't matter where I am driving I am always looking out onto the fields and land thinking how great it would be to have permission to search there and I often see detectorists. I try to always pull in if I have time and go for a chat to see what has been found and how its going, this is the perfect way to catch out nighthawks because if someone pulls up and starts walking towards them you can be sure they will bolt across the field.
We are the eyes and the ears on the ground and we can make a difference. It is just one thing that we all need to try and stop for the sake of metal detecting as a hobby in the public eye and also to make sure that farmers and landowners can feel comfortable in giving us permission to metal detect on their land.