Steve Smith knew hunting and fishing are hooked to Idaho's economic engine.
After all, the plethora of outdoors activities in the state, particularly those in North Idaho, are what drew the Post Falls man here during retirement.
"Wouldn't trade it for the world," the 73-year-old said last week at Cabela's as he was scanning fishing items.
"This is the place to be if you love to hunt and fish."
But the numbers tied to those sports released in a recent report by the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation caught Smith by surprise.
The 534,000 hunters and anglers in Idaho (residents and non-residents) spent $1.02 billion in 2011, the "American's Sporting Heritage: Fueling the American Economy" report states.
Those sports produced 15,261 jobs in Idaho that year, the report states.
"Those numbers are huge," Smith said. "Hopefully they'll translate into a positive impact on the area. Maybe they can help attract jobs or even more business."
CSF's mission is to work with Congress, governors and state legislatures to advance outdoor sports interests. The full report is at www.sportsmenslink.org.
"Many people may not fully comprehend how important hunting and fishing are to the fabric of this country," said Jeff Crane, CSF president. "Yet nationally there are more people who hunt or fish than go bowling, and their spending would land them at No. 24 on the Fortune 500 list."
Funds spent on hunting and fishing outpaced the revenues from potatoes, Idaho's third-highest grossing agricultural commodity ($1.02 billion vs. $914 million)."
Nationally, there were more than 37 million hunters and anglers ages 16 and up - about the size of California's population - in 2011, the report states. They spent $90 billion - comparable to the combined global sales of Apple's iPad and iPhone that year.
Hailey Johnson, a Coeur d'Alene woman who shopped at Cabela's last week, said more women are doing their part to boost outdoors numbers.
"Ladies don't want to be left behind," she said with a smile. "They like to enjoy the outdoors, too."
Steve Wilson, president and CEO of the Coeur d'Alene Chamber of Commerce, said North Idaho's natural resources and abundant wildlife is a key cog for the local economy and cultural way of life.
The chamber has a Natural Resources Committee, which includes Chip Corsi of the Idaho Fish and Game.
"Idaho's abundance of fish and wildlife is a unique and valuable asset that is cherished by Idahoans," he said. "It is also a critically important economic resource, sustaining businesses in both urban and rural Idaho, and attracting new businesses to help drive Idaho's economic engine."
Several outdoors-related businesses have located here, tapping into the market and providing jobs, while other such stores and organizations have been here for many years, Corsi said.
Ed Santos, owner of Center Target Sports, an indoor shooting range in Post Falls, said the report's findings aren't a surprise.
"Idaho is certainly a shining example of the policies of state and support of the participants who work together to preserve our (hunting and fishing) heritage," Santos said.
Often overlooked, Santos said, is that many hunters choose the semi-automatic rifle or shotgun to pursue their passion.
"The most popular hunting and clay target shotguns are semiautomatics," he said. "The most popular .22 rifles used to hunt small game are semiautomatics."