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  • 04/18/2018 12:00 PM | Eric St. Pierre (Administrator)

    On Wednesday, April 18th The Champaign County CTO Chapter hosted a Dad’s Ceremony for the men of Windsor Road Christian Church (WRCC). Bear and a group of men from WRCC went through the Raising a Modern Day Knight curriculum. The overall theme of the class was for fathers to become more strategic and intentional in the lives of the boys that God has blessed each of them with. The goal was to learn how to better serve their sons.

    A big part of being intentional & strategic as a father is to prepare ceremonies that allow these dads to  celebrate their sons. The purpose of this particular ceremony was for the dads to launch their sons into this journey. The young men of CTO wanted to make it special for these families by preparing the evening for them so the dads could put the energy and attention on their son and not the tasks of the ceremony.

    The CTO Sportsmen with the help of CTO Volunteers set up the large, extremely hot bon fire (think of Daniel 3), the smaller fire for keeping warm, prepared the meal, and organized the buffet of sides, hotdogs, hamburgers, and venison steaks. Overall they did an excellent job serving these dads and their sons.

    As the Sportsmen watched each of these dads take their sons up to the fire both holding onto a sword they were moved by the words these dads used to bless their son’s present and future. They were given an opportunity to see what kind of dads they could be in the future. They were able to witness what it means to be a Christian dad. So many of the CTO Sportsmen come from homes where they witnessed fathers that haven’t always made the best choices concerning their sons, but by seeing fathers like these, it inspires them that they can make better choices for their future families.

    Bear’s interest in the material was slightly different. He was looking to learn how to better serve the boys of CTO by putting more meat into CTO’s Trail of the Guide: A Path to Christian Manhood Program. God is calling us to recognize milestones in these boys lives as they become men. Cross Trail Outfitters needs to also be intentional and strategic. We need to provide opportunities for these young men to be celebrated, by us and their families, as they are released into the world as followers of Jesus. We are launching boys into manhood! Giving them a map of the trail only makes sense.

  • 04/16/2018 6:00 AM | Nate Nash (Administrator)

    Anytime you begin a new program or ministry there is a lot of anticipation and excitement. That’s exactly what I’m feeling as we kick off LaSalle County Chapter on April 22. I’ve had a number of exciting conversations with individuals and students who are very eager for this ministry to start. As we’ve been gearing up to kick off, I’ve been able to share my story with a number of people.  I grew up without adults in my life who were able to teach me to hunt or fish. I did some fishing, but really didn’t know what I was doing. Since I didn’t have anyone to teach me to hunt, I didn’t start until I was in college. So I basically had to teach myself to hunt. Growing up, I would have loved an opportunity like CTO to teach me how to hunt or fish. Today there are so many fatherless homes and there is a growing ignorance about outdoor sports. CTO provides an incredible service to our young people to be mentored and learn about the outdoors. 

    The LaSalle County Chapter has been blessed to kick off sooner than some other chapters, because we’ve gotten a donation that has covered our basic expenses for the first year. So we will be starting with an informational meeting on April 22 at 5pm at Bethel Lutheran Church in Ottawa, IL. This will be a great way for me to network with a number of individuals who will be a valuable part of our future ministry. This meeting will be for students and parents, landowners, adults who wish to be guides, and possible financial partners. We are building this ministry from the ground up. As I said, it’s exciting but also a very daunting, because there are always a number of challenges to overcome. I appreciate your prayer support as we begin this journey. Pray that God would provide the young people, volunteers, landowners, and financial partners that we need to make this ministry successful and sustainable for the future.

  • 04/10/2018 10:00 AM | Joe Hardwick (Administrator)

    There is a reason they call it “hunting.” Because when you hunt you don’t always bring something home to eat.

    But when you search for the Lord, He promises to be found. I would encourage you to talk with a young man around campfire at a CTO hunt or camp. Wow, on this last weekend it was 42 degrees and no one wanted to go in and get warm, because we were all warmed by His Spirit. Just like when Jesus told His disciples in John chapter 4, “My food is to do the will of the Him who sent Me and to finish His work.”

    His will was being done that night and no-one was cold. That night there was a bond that was forged and branded. It started earlier in the day, when the CTO hunters and their guides worked side-by-side clearing a tree that blocked the path to the field. They even cut chunks of the wood to brand later. What is blocking you from taking a young man hunting? The Lord spent three years with young men. 

    I challenge you to spend three days on a hunt, camp, or local event. You will be changed forever.

    By the way the group did not go hungry. We were blessed to help out at banquet at a church Friday, and attend a NWTF banquet on Saturday. The group reminded me of the disciples again when they spread out at different tables and shared about CTO and the Lord with others at their tables.

  • 03/31/2018 12:00 PM | Eric St. Pierre (Administrator)

    When it comes to favorite holidays I would have to say that as I have gotten older, or more seasoned, Easter has become my favorite. Sometimes Easter and Illinois Youth Turkey Hunt coincide on the same weekend. It’s not often that we get to spend holidays with the CTO Sportsmen. This provides a challenge to get enough volunteers to help with the Turkey Hunt Event, but it also allows us to share the wonderful gift Christ shared with us all by sacrificing Himself on the cross, and freeing us from the bondage of sin. 

    We get to start Friday night sharing with the CTO Sportsmen about Good Friday. How Jesus Spent most of the day in town at the temple that he was about to replace. We tell the story of the garden in the evening before we go to bed. On Saturday evening we shared with the CTO Sportsmen that Jesus went willingly. We discussed how Jesus knew before he was ever arrested what was about to take place. We pointed out how He even asked His Father for another way, but then He chose to fulfill His calling as our Lord and Savior. On Sunday we greet each other with a joyous HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED.

    Oh yeah we hunted turkeys too.

  • 03/10/2018 3:00 PM | Joe Hardwick (Administrator)

    It’s been a busy month for our chapter. We hosted our first ever banquet  at Scheels on March 10th. Thank you to our team that got the ball rolling with getting the word out! Then gathering auction items, set-up, cleanup, and everything in between. Everyone I talked with had a good time! We learned from this banquet and will improve on several things for next year. 

    Several root partners joined CTO during the banquet. Thank you all so much! 

    There was so much support from the community. Thank each attendee and those that were praying for us!

    Thanks also to everyone who donated items for out auctions!

    Special thanks to Springfield Archery for donating the table host crossbow & Scheels donating the room for the day!


    Because of you, we have some great news. 

    Our Sangamon County Chapter will be up and running as a volunteer chapter in May! Having our First Sportsmen's Night Event Thursday, May 31st 2017

    We will be holding a weekly Sportsman’s Nights this fall following Summer Camps!

    We will get the word out with dates and topics that we will be concentrating on each meeting.

    Thank you all so much!!

  • 03/03/2018 6:55 AM | Eric St. Pierre (Administrator)

    Our Annual Champaign County Friends of CTO Banquet Marks 8 years of CTO in Illinois. We were joined by over 150 Friends as we gathered to learn more about Cross Trail Outfitters as a Ministry and how God has used this ministry to reach the lives of boys throughout the state of Illinois.

    We were joined by Travis T-Bone Turner as our Host/MC. He did a fantastic job of keeping the night moving and on time. Our main Speaker was Cynthia Girdler. She spoke to us about her son’s love for hunting and fishing. She shared how it is still a spirited discussion between her and her husband over which, hunting or fishing was loved more by Jason. She then shared about Jason’s tragic death one evening from drunk driving. She shared with us, and especially the CTO Youth in the room, about how decisions have consequences and that we all need to make sure we make good decisions with our lives. Many of the people that were in attendance were moved by Cyndi’s story about Jason. I know because they came to me throughout the night to share with me how much it touched them. The Jason Smitley Memorial Scholarship program has granted just under $3000.00 in scholarships to the CTO youth in 2017 with more to come in 2018.

    We also discussed how CTO in Illinois has grown from a small ministry that met in a back yard with a handful of ragtag boys looking for some adventure to a multi-location ministry with God continuing to bless us with future locations. Currently we have launched both our Sangamon & LaSalle County Chapters and have plans to bring CTO to Vermillion County before the end of the year. With our Champaign County Chapter and our presence in JoDaviess County this will bring us to 5 CTO Chapters in Illinois. A great start on our way to our gaol of CTO in all 102 counties of Illinois.

    One of the greatest joys I have is being able to share the successes of CTO with the people around me. I get excited as God continues to grow our footprint here in Illinois and He calls people to serve within this ministry. It is humbling to be used by Him in the capacity he has blessed me and allowing me to serve His called ministers in CTO continues to give me hope that our harvest will be plenty even with a few laborers. 

  • 01/20/2018 12:00 AM | Eric St. Pierre (Administrator)

    Our last Outing of the 2017-2018 hunting season was one of great growth spiritually. We studied the parable of the sower.  Explaining the different seeds to the young men and asking them to reflect in their quiet time which seed they thought most reflected them in their walk with Jesus. 

    Their answers were anything but what you would have expected as they shared with each other their shortcomings. Most of the boys were seeking to find a way to go from being the seed that they most relate to, to the seed that produces 30, 60, or 100 fold.  True discipleship happened through Holy Spirit with these young men this weekend.

    We ended our hunting season with a chance to squirrel and coyote hunt at this year’s deer hunting location. This last weekend we had a full house of CTO Sportsmen and Guides. 

    As always it seems the animals, we were set on harvesting, could sense we were coming for them and the hunt started off slow. However we harvested plenty of squirrels by the time lunch was served. None of the sportsmen hit their daily limit, but each of them was able to harvest at least one squirrel on the first day.

    For one of out sportsmen it was his first harvest ever! He was very excited and joy filled and ready for pictures. After we had all gathered back up with our game one of our Guides, Steve, showed everyone how to properly break down a squirrel. Everyone got an opportunity to do it.

    The coyote hunts we did at night. Getting to use the coyote calls and colored lights mounted on the scopes excited the entire group of hunters. Two sportsmen decided to use raccoons, they harvested during the day, and use them as bait for the coyotes. It worked! As they went down with Bear to go to there hunting spot, the coyotes had already beaten them to it. Through some cunning tactics implemented by Bear they were able to get close enough to get two shots off, but unfortunately they came up empty. However raccoons were also in season at this time and unfortunately they are not as sly as the coyotes and therefore were harvested when they presented themselves to the sportsmen to be harvested. 

  • 12/16/2017 8:00 AM | D'Lige Smith-Hughes

    My Name is Brendan I am 16yrs old and this was my First Deer Hunt and first year being apart of CTO. I’ve had a blast spending time with everyone and going to the weekly meetings, shooting bows, and Bible Study with Ralph. 

    This past weekend we went on my third hunting trip, and I had the best time with the guys. I enjoy the positive role models they give me to look up to. Bear, D'Lige, and Joe are always there when I need them for laughs, help, or guidance. They continue to work and help me become the man that I want to be. I was also able to get my first deer this weekend! I was so excited! I got to use the crossbow which was also exciting because I had never shot one before.

    I look forward to the trips with the guys, staying in the cabin, and having fellowship with one another. I appreciate being unplugged from electronics and the social media world.

  • 12/02/2017 3:00 PM | Joe Hardwick (Administrator)

    Early in December, Stephen had an opportunity to go pheasant hunting for the first time. I really think he had a smile on his face all day.  From the time of taking a few practice shots, then watching the first group go out, and listening to their shots, I could tell his excitement was building. We could see their birds fly up then either go down right away or soar off into the nearby fields.

    Then it was the second group’s chance. The first couple Stephen shot at did not go down right away, and someone else finished them off. Then one few up and stayed low flying strait away from Stephen. He was the only one to get a shot.  It went down a little ways away. Brett’s dog brought it back to Brett, and he handed the pheasant to Stephen. Success! I told Stephen he had to clean it. He said “OK”. He ended up with one more bird, and jumped right into learning how to clean them. At the end of the hunt, Stephen said, “When can we go hunting again?” That’s what I call success!

  • 12/02/2017 8:00 AM | D'Lige Smith-Hughes

    The Pheasant Hunt turned out to be a great hunt, we had a more people than expected which made it more exciting and fun. For two of the youth Sportsmen it was their first CTO experience and first bird hunt. We also had 2 new CTO Guides (volunteer leaders) come along bringing their Bird Dogs for us to hunt with and enjoy the CTO experience.

    In order to keep our hunt safe, a high priority for Cross Trail Outfitters, we split up into two groups. Going out in the field one group at a time giving everyone a chance be safe and to take a shot.

    The CTO Sportsmen (the boys) managed to harvest 12 pheasant and afterward learned two different ways to clean and remove the meat from the birds. Each youth got a chance to do this so that in the future they have theses skills, afterword’s we got all cleaned up and headed to Bear’s house so that we could have lunch and Campfire.

    Sometimes when working with the CTO Sportsmen Bear will challenge them to address current events happening in our world. Today’s campfire was one of those times. Bear asked us if we had heard about what was happening in Hollywood about how some men were treating women and children? Everyone knew what he was talking about. We then read Luke 8: 16-18 where scripture discusses things being done in the secret / hidden will be brought into light or made known. 

    We discussed how when we want to do something that we know is wrong we try to keep it from those that we know will disapprove. That this is sin! Sin always wants to be in the dark, hidden away, especially from the people we want to gain approval from. We then reflected over our own struggles and saw the similarities between our “sin” failures, and those of others we know.

    But how does God deal with this sin? Especially if you are a Christian how will God react to your sin?

    He will bring it into the light! Why? Because He loves you! Because He wants you to have the opportunity to reconcile yourself before Him and your brothers and sisters within the Body of Christ! And as men of God how are we to react to our brothers and sisters? We are to show them love, understanding, and forgiveness to help them return to the righteous path that God has for all of us. Unfortunately that isn’t how we as Christians always react to our fallen brothers and sisters. A lot of the time we shun and turn our backs in them. Bear pointed out that when we do that we give them up to remain fallen, and that’s definitely what God doesn’t want of His body. Then Bear asked us to reflect upon our own shortcomings and where we might have tried to hide in the dark then he encouraged us to bring it to the light through prayer. Remember if God trusts you to bring sin into the light He is also trusting you to help in your siblings healing. Don’t let Him down! we are our brother’s keepers you know.

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Cross Trail Outfitters of Illinois is a 501(c)3 non profit organization

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Homer, IL 61849
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