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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.