How did you ever come up with a hobby like this one????

Well, as a safety professional I've spent a good part of my career investigating accidents to get at the "root cause".  The technological and human performance barriers that were being pushed during WW II and the Cold War era, and the associated cost in lives and aircraft losses are very interesting to me.

As a boy, I was very active in scouting and spent a good deal of time in the Maine woods. To hone my map and compass skills (long before GPS) I used to pick benchmarks, old campgrounds and other features off maps and try to navigate to and find them from a recognizable starting point.  Along the way, I found old log hauling equipment, abandoned vehicles, railroad bridge bases and eventually some aircraft wreckage.

Having heard about the Macwahoc F-101B and Molunkis F-86F incidents from locals over the years, I sifted through years of newspaper microfilm during hours of boredom in college and eventually started a small collection of mishap news clippings.

It was pretty much me doing this strange thing on my own until the internet came into the picture and I realized that there were (a few) others out there doing the same thing on a much more organized scale.  During a conversation with Craig Fuller of AAIR one night, I learned that a group within MAHS were doing the same thing right in my neck of the woods. I joined, met up with the late Jim Chichetto and we pooled our resources to document and preserve this"niche"portion of Maine's aviation heritag
How can I get involved in aviation archaeology?

My links page is a good place to start. MAHS leads a few "public" hikes to known crash sites each year. If you think you are serious, you can join a few search hikes. Many of these come up empty, but you'll learn the process and decide if it is for you.

Wreckchasing series of books by Nick Veronico are also excellent beginner's guides
Why don't you recover wreckage or collect "souvenirs" from these sites?

It seems that everyone that starts out doing this learns a damaging lesson the hard way.
Pieces of wreckage get lugged out of the woods. Many get dumped at trailside on the hike out, causing much confusion for guys like me as to how it landed
there. So eventually, a wreckchaser has a garage, shed, or back yard full of neat ejection seats, engine parts, and assorted aluminum. Sure as taxes, one day priorities change and the whole thing goes to the dump and is lost to future generations forever.

Many of these sites are literally or figuratively graves. Two sites in my area have documented remains at them and reading the gruesome details of a pre-1955 jet crash medical officer's report will show that often more of those who died stayed there than was taken out.

The "trophy hunters" also cause serious trouble with landowners who see us as them and try to hide the sites to keep them from disappearing.

Every summer, many tourists visit the well preserved B-52C crash site near Greenville. It never fails that a few graverobbers will sell pieces of wreckage that they lugged out on e-bay before the year is out.

So, for these reasons, and many more, I am a preservationist. I work with landowners to preserve these sites so that future generations that never lived during the Cold War era can visit these sites and experience the intense emotions that come with the unique sense of the cost of freedom that I still feel when I first locate and survey a site.

I believe that aircraft can and should be recovered under two circumstances. In some cases the crash sites will be obliterated by construction. Then the artifacts should be professionally collected and catalogued for a museum. Also, some fairly intact wrecks in remote areas, where there was no fatality, could be restored and in museums for future generations to see there.
What are the legal issues surrounding aviation archaeology?

Air Force wreckage belongs to the landowner. Always respect their rights! If you are not careful in your approach to them, the current political environment in Maine makes us "archaeologists" look like another group trying to reduce landowner rights. Not so! On the other end of the spectrum, one major "conservation" landbuying group has recently begun obliterating WW II sites on their property to keep wreckchasing types away. It does not fit with their intended "natural" setting for use of their land.

The U.S. Navy claims perpetual ownership of all wreckage, so removing it without their authority is a no, no. The same goes for removing armaments such as gun parts, ammo, and rocket/missile parts. Even possession of a bent rusted receiver can land a felony conviction.

Some treaties also protect sites considered British Commonwealth "War Graves".
A little humor!! :-)