CANYONVILLE — Jack Joyce remembers when he wanted to take his sons hunting in central California, but couldn’t find any choice terrain to hunt because most of it was posted as private property.
Now, years later, he’s providing access to his land and ponds for youth hunts on his ranch a couple of miles east of Canyonville. He’s provided those opportunities for several years by donating hunts to the Umpqua chapter of the Oregon Hunter’s Association. The hunts are raffled off, earning money for OHA and giving young hunters a chance at bagging a turkey or duck.
More recently, the cattle rancher has also allowed a couple of As to veterans in wheelchairs, accompanied by OHA members, to venture out onto his property in hopes of taking a turkey.
As to why he allows his property to be used by youthful hunters, “They’re not doing drugs, they’re not stealing from somebody and they got a big smile on their face,” said the 74-year-old Joyce. “My passion is hunting and I remember when I couldn’t find land to hunt with my young sons. I hate ‘no trespassing’ signs, but I know they’re necessary. This way I can give some young hunters an opportunity.”
Each young hunter must be accompanied by a parent or other adult. Joyce points them in the right direction and then lets them hunt on their own.
“They always come back after their hunt to brag about it,” Joyce said with a smile. “They’re always pleased with the experience.”
Joyce is considering adding goose hunts to the mix.
Because of his donations and generosity, OHA named Joyce its 2011 Citizen Landowner of the Year. Joyce is a 10-year member of the organization, whose mission statement is “To provide an abundant huntable wildlife resource in Oregon for present and future generations, enhancement of wildlife habitat and protection of hunter’s rights.”
“Jack’s been a huge supporter of our chapter,” said Cindy Rooney, chapter president. “He’s been very consistent in donating hunts for the last 10 years or so. He’s helping to get youth more involved in our hunting heritage.”
Tod Lum, a wildlife biologist in the Roseburg Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife office, said there are some landowners in Douglas County who provide hunting opportunities for youth, but there aren’t many who have done as much as Joyce.
“Landowners have different desires,” Lum said. “We’re just happy Jack is able to provide a place for kids to hunt. We’d like to have more places like his.”
Joyce said he knows the number of hunting licenses being sold is decreasing and that fewer young people are participating in the outdoor activity.
“Young people are the replacement crop in hunting for those that are retiring from it,” he said. “I want to help them get a start, to get excited about it.”
In 2010, Kaden Schwind of Klamath Falls was the recipient of a youth hunt on the Joyce ranch after his family had the winning bid on the donation. He hunted with his grandfather, Leroy Roberts of Springfield, and stepfather Dan Supenia of Klamath Falls. Kaden, age 12 at the time, tagged a turkey with a 30-yard shot.
“It was crazy, it was really fun,” Kaden said. “My first turkey. It was a really good-sized bird.”
Kaden said he helped pluck the bird to prepare it for cooking. Then he helped eat it.
“It was really good,” Kaden said. “I thank him (Joyce) a lot. I hope to go against sometime.”
In addition donating the space for youth hunts, Joyce has also worked with OHA and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on some habitat enhancement projects on his ranch. He removed blackberry bushes from several meadows and spread a mixture of pasture grass seed over about 50 acres to enhance deer and elk forage.
Down by the South Umpqua River, Joyce had five rock structures built into the bank and planted willows to stem erosion. He traded four or five days of work planting the willows with three young men who received duck hunting rights on the ranch.
Joyce estimated the river project cost $80,000 to $100,000 and the meadow enhancement was close to $10,000.
“I like to conserve the land and maintain it for its usefulness,” the rancher said.
The enhancement work earned Joyce a Hunters Access and Habitat Award from OHA in 2008.
“We’ve got an awful lot of habitat protected through a joint effort,” Joyce said. “It’s been relatively easy to accomplish. Without the combined efforts of field people in the Oregon Hunter’s Association and in Fish and Wildlife, a lot less animals would have less enhanced habitat.”
• News-Review Features Editor Craig Reed can be reached by calling 541-957-4210 or by email at email@example.com.