There’s something bigger around Louisiana than Saturday’s opening of the dove season, maybe even bigger, for sportsman, than the opening weekend of the college football season.

It’s the state’s seventh year of the Second Amendment Weekend Sales Tax Holiday, and the benefits can last for years.

The special tax-free days run Friday through Sunday, and outdoors retail shops from the giants like Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, Academy Sports and Dick’s Sporting Goods to the smallest mom-and-pop operations celebrate this annual event.

Corporate officials at Cabela’s, Bass Pro and Academy know to have shelves well stocked because past tax holiday periods have produced record sales.

But this special weekend was made for the local shops, the store owners who know their customers by first names, not credit card numbers.

To a man, Lee Benoit at Bowie Outfitters in Baton Rouge, C.J. Hebert at Hebert Guns in Prairieville and Kelly Neuville at Buckfins-N-Feathers in Broussard agree that this weekend is as big as Black Friday and the week leading up to Christmas when it comes to moving hunting products out their doors.

“It sets the tone for the rest of the hunting season,” Benoit said. “It’s the three busiest days of the year.”

And it’s not just for Louisiana hunters.

Hebert, who with his wife, Nancy, opened their storefront 12 years ago, said he sees more and more nonresidents showing up at his shop to take advantage of tax-free purchases.

“They come from out of state and buy gas, food and maybe an overnight stay, and that stimulates the economy more than selling hunting supplies,” Hebert said.

For Neuville, the weekend gets hunters’ blood flowing.

“It’s basically a jump-start for the hunting season, starts the fever for the season,” he said. “It’s a great boost for us, and also is a great savings for hunters and sportsmen.”

Hebert said he was taken aback by talk in this year’s State Legislature about doing away with this special program.

“This weekend is a big shot in the arm for us, and I was disappointed in the spring about cancelling it,” Hebert said. “Some legislators were saying they needed to take a look at how much money the state loses, but they didn’t realize how it helps create a domino effect with spending. The first year (of the tax-free weekend), we sold more in three days than the whole month the year before, and it keeps hunters coming back to stores to spend more.

“It also stimulates a lot of things. It helps with advertising and affects other businesses in the community,” he said.

Hebert said recent moves in Mississippi and Texas to copy Louisiana’s tax-free initiative means it’s even more important to resist the move to remove this special exemption.

“I get customers from Mississippi and I know shop owners in Lake Charles (and) maybe Lafayette get people from Texas, too,” Hebert said. “We shouldn’t lose that business.”

How good is the weekend for Buckfins?

“It’s the only Sunday of the year that we’re open,” Neuville said.

Benoit spoke for all three men when he said the tax-free incentive has changed stores’ buying habits.

“In the past,we’d have orders for the (hunting) season shipped in September, but now we have our orders shipped in May and June just so we’re prepared for these three days,” Benoit said. “We know we’re going to move a lot of merchandise, but you never know how much. Like last year, we thought there would be a slowdown. Boy, were we wrong.

“It was the second biggest tax-free weekend ever for Bowie’s.”