One of the greatest benefits all Americans, especially in the Bayou State, share is our ability to take part in the outdoors. It could be fishing in one of the thousands of places we have or hunting in our favorite spot or target shooting at a local range.

Hunting, fishing and target shooting are enjoyed by millions of men, women and children all across our nation. Some folks pursue these time-honored activities for consumption of the food it provides or the thrill of adventure, while others engage in them purely to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of their daily lives.

Participating in these outdoor pursuits is a great way for like-minded family and friends to share their time and experiences with each other, strengthening their bonds and building memories that will last a lifetime.

But a lot more comes out of those who participate in hunting, fishing and target shooting. They also benefit local, state and even the national economies. With millions of Americans calling themselves sportsmen and sportswomen, billions of dollars were spent in 2016 on all things outdoors according to the latest statistics available, provided by Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation.

Multiple reliable sources have estimated the number of hunters, anglers and target shooters. Altogether, considering the overlap across activities, the annual number of people who participate in these great American traditions ranges from a low of 53.4 million up to a maximum of 86.9 million.

Therefore, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation supports the estimate of 86.9 million anglers, hunters and target shooters, while the economic impacts presented here are based on the more conservative estimate of 53.4 million participants. That’s a little over 16 percent of our population.

Regardless of whether a sportsman or woman prefers to spend time on the water fishing, walking along the edge of some woods in search of small game, or hitting the local range for a little target practice, these men and women contribute quite a bit to the U.S. economy.

In fact, in 2016, 53.4 million sportsmen and women spent $93.7 billion in retail sales that started rounds of spending across businesses and created a value to our economy in excess of $220 billion.

To put that in perspective, American sportsmen and sportswomen spent more of their money to go fishing, hunting and target shooting in 2016 than consumers in the United States spent over Thanksgiving weekend. How much more? The $93.7 billion of annual sporting expenditures is more than double the $44.7 billion spent from Black Friday through the end of the weekend.

With all the money sportsmen and sportswomen spend for hunting, fishing and target shooting, it’s no surprise that all of these dollars have a significant positive impact on our country’s overall economy. Money is spent buying hunting gear, licenses, and related products; paying guides and charter captains; booking hotel rooms; purchasing meals and gas; and much more.

These expenditures have a ripple effect across the economy by supplying wages and supporting jobs held by people who in turn spend the money for the necessities in life. The $93.7 billion in consumer spending by hunters, anglers and target shooters translates into supporting more than 1.6 million jobs to the tune of $71.8 billion in salaries.

As for the impact to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), these activities contributed $119 billion in 2016. These sports also generate $17.6 billion in federal taxes and $12.2 million in state and local taxes. Much of which goes to support vital programs that benefit many Americans.

Of the total amount spent, $43.9 billion alone comes from hunters and target shooters, adding $55.4 billion to the GDP. These activities provide for 854,000 jobs and generate local, state and federal taxes in the combined range of $13.8 billion. Meanwhile, anglers contribute $49.7 billion in retail sales, adding $63.5 billion to the nation’s GDP. These expenditures support 802,000 jobs and generate combined federal, state and local taxes to the tune nearly $16 billion.

Along with the great financial contributions made to our society, outdoor traditions, which include hunting, target shooting and recreational fishing, are celebrated and enjoyed by millions of people of every age, sex, race, religious belief, economic background and walk of life.

Women make up one of the fastest growing segments in the target shooting sports along with fishing and hunting. In fact, female participation in hunting increased 104 percent between 2001 and 2016, while female participation in target shooting increased by more than 81 percent during that same time.

What many Americans don’t realize is much of the publicly maintained land in this country and the conservation work that goes into supporting healthy populations of fish and wildlife are paid for directly by hunters, anglers, boaters and recreational shooters.

Perhaps that’s why more than 53 million people choose these activities for fun and excitement, because no matter whether you are reeling in a bass or aiming a .22-caliber rifle at a metal target downrange, everyone can enjoy a day target shooting, fishing or hunting.

These activities are perfect for families to experience together, providing quality time for couples or parents and children to have fun and learn, all while instilling a sense of responsibility and an appreciation for our natural resources.

Outdoor enthusiasts are a very important segment of our population, generating enough revenue to support a substantial portion of our economy. We also pay the lion’s share of the funds that it takes to conserve these resources for future generations.

So in 2016, 53.4 million participants generated 93.7 billion dollars in retail sales, a Total Multiplier Effect of $220.5 billon dollars, 118.96 billion dollars of Value Added to our (GDP), 71.8 billion dollars in Salaries & Wages, 1.65 million Jobs, 12.2 billion bucks in State & Local Taxes and a whopping 17.6 billion bucks to our Federal Treasury.

The folks that give Louisiana a voice nationally on the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus are Representatives Ralph Abraham, Garret Graves, Clay Higgins, Mike Johnson, Cedric Richmond, Steve Scalise along with Senators Bill Cassidy and John N. Kennedy.

That’s pretty impressive. So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Be safe in the outdoors, have fun and may God truly bless you!!