Manage mowing

Leaving some areas undisturbed by mowing when managing old fields provides habitat for ground-nesting birds. A turkey’s nest is tragically disturbed by mowing a field. PHOTO BY CHRIS WOLKONOWSKI, COURTESY OF NRCS

Mowing or bushhogging can be devastating to many Tennessee wildlife species that nest in fields at this time of year, which include white-tailed deer, bobwhite quail, cottontail rabbits, wild turkey and ground-nesting songbirds such as eastern meadowlark.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency said waiting until after mid-August greatly reduces the chance of killing and injuring nesting and newborn wildlife and still allows for effective field maintenance.

“Although we like to keep our lawns and other immediate homestead property looking clean and neat by regular mowing, old fields and odd areas that are left to grow in grasses, clovers and natural broadleaf plants provide valuable nesting and brood-rearing cover spring through mid-summer,” said Mark Gudlin, TWRA habitat program manager. “Refraining from mowing during this time not only is beneficial to wildlife, but saves you gas as you use your mower less.”

Problem spots with woody vegetation can easily be spot-sprayed or controlled without mowing the entire field. In addition, if mowing is intended to allow more accessibility, consideration should be made for mowing paths rather than entire fields. Not only will you still be able to walk around and enjoy your land, you also will retain cover that is critical to the wildlife you enjoy seeing use your fields.

Craig Harper, University of Tennessee Extension wildlife specialist, authored a number of publications on habitat preservation and management. “A Quick Guide for Landowners: Managing Old-fields for Wildlife” details management techniques for specific field conditions and species.

The publication can viewed on the UT Exension website at Just type the name of the publication into the search engine and click on the link to read online or download a copy for free.

TWRA also has information on its website about managing habitat. Visit

Lee Wilmot is the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s information specialist. Email him at

Recommended for you