Shooting is a skill one can use throughout their life. Doing it the right way, focusing on safety and mastery, leads to success.

Jerry Ludwig has been teaching area 4-H youth the skills that go along with shooting everything from a bow to a .22 rifle for several years, and in that time hundreds of those youth have been impacted by his dedication to them and the program.

Recently, Ludwig was recognized for his efforts with the 4-H Salute to Excellence award for outstanding service as a lifetime volunteer. Ludwig was announced as a recipient of the award in early December and received a plaque and further recognition from the University of Minnesota Extension Service during the Jan. 16 Redwood County board meeting.

Ludwig was nominated for the award by Stacy Johnson, Redwood County 4-H program coordinator, with letters of support being provided from those who have been impacted by his service.

“Jerry has equipped the youth with these experiences to be successful well after their 4-H participation,” wrote Jim Doering, a fellow 4-H program volunteer. 

Ludwig helped to develop the Redwood /Renville Shooting Sports/Wildlife Club, and over the years has served in a leadership role not only during the time on the range but also as the students develop other skills as part of the 4-H program and their local club.

“I had no idea the 4-H program had such an award,” said Ludwig, adding he is humbled to be selected for the honor.

Ludwig said he got interested in the shooting sports program when his own kids were old enough to be part of the 4-H program, and he said it was while attending a state shoot that he saw the impact a program could have on future generations.

“There were 75 kids on the line, and every one of them was well-behaved,” said Ludwig. “I saw it as a very good thing and wanted to check it out.”

Ludwig said the shooting sports program has allowed him to use the skills he developed while in the military as a coach helping to develop them in area youth.

One of those youth is Carl Swedzinski who also wrote a letter of support.

“Everyone wants to leave some kind of legacy,” wrote Swedzinski. “I think Jerry will be well known for helping to build the local 4-H Shooting Sports Club and his help to start up and expand other clubs in the State of Minnesota. He is always willing to give advice to other clubs to help them also.”

Swedzinski also wrote that Ludwig is passionate about the outdoors and is helping to pass that on to others.

In fact, some of the youth who were involved in the local program in the past have returned to help out as program instructors.

There are currently more than 60 youth involved in the local shooting sports program, with more than a dozen volunteers. Ludwig recognized it is a team effort that leads to the success of a program like this, and the local club has seen its share of successes over the years.

A number of students have demonstrated their mastery of shooting sports skills that have led them to participate and place at national contests, and there are currently two members of the local club who are competing in shooting sports at the college level. The program has also had members who serve as program ambassadors at the state and national level.

“We currently have two members serving as state shooting sports program ambassadors,” said Ludwig.

Ludwig said he enjoys knowing he has made an impact with youth, adding he really enjoys hearing from them after they have graduated and moved on to the next stage of their life. He said it is exciting to see the photos they send to him of their hunting successes.

“We have a top-notch program because we have good kids and good families,” said Ludwig. “They are the ones who make it happen.”

Naturally, Ludwig offered an invitation to anyone who is interested in learning more about shooting sports to contact the Redwood County Extension office at (507) 637-4025.

There are eight different disciplines that can be developed through the shooting sports program, said Ludwig, adding the club not only holds meetings but regularly has practices at the local gun range.

Ludwig also said the program is successful because of the support it receives from a number of other organizations and individuals who donate financially to ensure the youth have what they need.

For Ludwig receiving an award is a nice way for others to recognize him for what he has done, but in the end it is knowing that he is making a difference in the lives of youth that is all the reward that he needs.