By Ben Robinson

Quail hunters, managers, enthusiasts; BEWARE.  An epidemic is sweeping across this great nation and our good friend the bobwhite quail is feeling the negative effects.  Known by many as Recreational Mowing Syndrome or RMS, symptoms include an insatiable desire to hop on the tractor with mower in tow, and ride for hours making sure no blade of grass stays above 3 inches tall.

What Causes RMS

RMS is caused by an innate yearning for manicured landscapes.  Areas with “grown-up” or “weedy” vegetation seem to trigger panic attacks in many landowners.  However, symptoms do cease as soon as the back forty starts to resemble the back nine on the local golf course.

How is RMS Spread

Researchers aren’t really sure how RMS is spread from one community to the next but they are certain that the syndrome is present in nearly every rural area across the Southeast.  “The neighbor down the road started mowing his fields in the fall and it looked so nice that I had to start” stated an anonymous Kentucky landowner.  “Now everybody in our town does it.  Not really sure why, just seems like the thing to do once fall rolls around”.

Is There a Cure?

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be an easy fix to this epidemic.  The deep-rooted love of the bush hog has become a way of life for many landowners.  Constant education about quail and their habitat needs have shown some positive results, but mindsets won’t be changed overnight.

Show Some Restraint

Many landowners either don’t realize or simply don’t care how much damage they do to grassland habitats when they perform their annual or bi-annual ritual of recreational mowing.  The urge to keep fields clean seems to be somewhat new.  In the past, landowners didn’t have the time or money to spend on mowing.  If they weren’t using a field for crops, cattle, or hay, they left it alone until it was needed.  Today these idle areas are cleaned up for aesthetics and little consideration is given to the quail and other wildlife that so desperately need “weeds” to survive.

So next time the urge hits you to jump on the tractor for some recreational mowing, show some restraint.  Don’t fall victim to this preventable syndrome known as RMS.  Allow the “weeds” to grow.  You may just get rewarded with a covey of quail on your property.

John Morgan

John Morgan

Small Game Coordinator

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife

John Morgan hails from a small, rural town in northern Pennsylvania.  His introduction to upland gamebirds began as youth with feeble attempts to wingshoot the state bird, the ruffed grouse. Despite his lack of wingshooting prowess, time afield with his dad and brother fostered a passion for managing the wildlife resource.  He learned the wildlife profession at Penn State University (BS) and the University of Georgia (MS).  His relocation to the South for his Master’s continued with a 3-year stint managing 30,000-acres of Florida’s wildlife management areas.

Growing tired of the seemingly endless Florida summer, John took his exploits to Kentucky as the small game biologist. He’s remained there for 8 years and has served the last 6 years as the Department’s small game coordinator.

In April 2008, he co-authored the “Road to Restoration:  The Blueprint for Restoring Northern Bobwhite in Kentucky”.   The accelerator has been to floor ever since trying to make the plan a reality on the ground.

Although his wingshooting has only slightly improved, he still enjoys time afield in search of upland gamebirds, deer, and turkeys.  He, his wife, Bobbi, and daughter enjoy tinkering on their hobby farm managing for wildlife and trying to grow a vegetable or two.  They are looking forward to training their new German wirehaired pointer pup.

Ben Robinson

Ben

Small Game Biologist

Department of Fish an Wildlife Resources

Ben was born and raised in Mercer County Kentucky.  His passion for hunting and the outdoors began at an early age and has been somewhat of an obsession since harvesting his first squirrel at 10 years old.

His love of nature led him to Eastern Kentucky University where he was trained in wildlife management.  Following graduation, Ben worked briefly at Tall Timbers Research Station before returning to Kentucky to work for the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.  The Red Hills of South Georgia spawned two new obsessions for Ben, bobwhite management and southern belle's.

The former became a reality when Ben became Small Game Biologist for the department in 2006.  Perhaps his biggest accomplishment was landing that southern belle, his wife Jennifer.  Together they are being trained by their young bird dog, a Gordon setter named Lucy.

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