QUINCY -- During her first deer hunt, Kelsey Taylor stood on a rudimentary tree stand made of 2-by-4s.
Her father was sitting near the foot of that tree to make sure the 12-year-old was safe.
"I saw a buck coming my way and I stood up and held the gun on it," Taylor said.
Due to brush that sometimes blocked a shot, the distance and the buck walking at times, she never got comfortable enough to shoot.
"After a while a nice doe came walking down the trail, so I waited for her. I shot and killed her," Taylor said.
When she climbed down to claim her first deer, Taylor's father let her know that he'd watched the whole thing. She had held her shotgun up to her shoulder for a half hour -- something the longtime hunter wasn't certain he could manage.
"It was all adrenalin," she said.
Taylor now works as a buyer and manager at the Gamemasters near 52nd and Broadway. She has sold items and helped customers prepare to take their own children out on first hunts, fishing trips or camping excursions.
"I'm 27 now and I went to college and was in Texas for a little while. Maybe you've got to move away and come back to realize how cool our hunting atmosphere is here. I really appreciate it. I'm proud of it," Taylor said.
Local residents represent the bulk of the customers at Gamemasters. But whether the shoppers are local or visitors, the money supports the local economy.
Tree stands are a hot item leading up to archery season. Taylor said hunters used to put their portable or ladder stands up in August, but "then they started doing that progressively earlier and earlier." Some hunters now put up stands in May.
Fishing gear sales have increased over the years. In addition to the usual tackle, Gamemasters sells a variety of bait.
The store sells guns, bows and archery supplies and a wide range of outdoor clothing.
Taylor still hunts.
Two years ago the Taylor family was hunting during the Illinois shotgun season. Her brother, who is three years older, shot a buck at 6:28 a.m. About 20 minutes later a buck walked near Kelsey's stand and she dropped him.
"When we got those bucks side by side we could see they were related. Their racks were similar. Of course Brandon's was just a touch bigger than mine, maybe a year older," Taylor said.
Even though her brother rubbed it in that he'd shot the bigger buck, Kelsey wouldn't trade the memory for anything.
Communities and organizations are working to keep hunting and outdoor traditions alive as well.
In Memphis, Mo., the city is working in partnership with the Missouri Department of Conservation to develop a new archery range at the Memphis Reservoir. MDC already manages rifle and shotgun shooting ranges at Lake Show-Me, just west of Memphis.
Rob Garver, MDC's outdoor skills specialist, said a $10,465 grant for the archery range is an investment in a tradition.
"Archery is a life sport and I hope this addition allows for more individuals of all ages to become more active in the outdoors," Garver said.
He said the archery and gun ranges provide a place for young people to experience those sports for the first time. They also help keep people involved in outdoor sports they've enjoyed for years.
"The more people we have shooting the more people we have spending money. Rural areas don't have the businesses they used to. There's such good wildlife that it helps keep some of those towns alive," Garver said.
The Missouri Department of Conservation reports that hunting, fishing and wildlife-related activities accounted for $4 billion in direct impact for the state in 2015. Labor statistics indicate that 99,000 Missouri jobs are supported by a combination of fish or wildlife-related recreation and the forest industry.
Garver said Mark Twain Lake also is in line for a state-of-the-art archery range. The MDC is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which already offers some outdoor attractions at the lake such as managed hunts, shooting courses and fishing events.
"We want to enhance the fishing pond to make it more ADA accessible. It's all about getting more people outdoors," Garver said.
Stats show growth
The U.S. Department of Interior reports that 101.6 million Americans, 40 percent of the U.S. population 16 and older, participated in wildlife related activities in 2016 and spent $156 billion in pursuit of those activities.
Surveys done every five years since 1955 indicate substantial increases in wildlife-watching or photography of wildlife. Participation grew by 20 percent from 71.8 million in 2011 to 86 million in 2016. Expenditures by wildlife watchers also rose sharply -- 28 percent -- between 2011 and 2016, from $59.1 billion to $75.9 billion.
Total expenditures by anglers nationwide rose 2 percent from 2011 to 2016, from $45 billion to $46.1 billion.
Hunting participation is strong at 11.5 million hunters, but is down by about 2 million participants from 2011.
Hunters spent $25.6 million on hunting gear in 2016.