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  • 05/22/2019 9:15 AM | Kim Potts

    On November 18, 2018, the Illinois Dept of Natural Resources hosted a free pheasant hunt for youth 17 and under at Jim Edgar Panther Creek (JEPC). Sangamon County CTO  was represented by Youth Sportsman Mike Kirkorian and CTO Guide Lou Hennenfent with his Brittany Rose. Only youth were allowed to carry firearms. 

    We met at 7:15 am at the JEPC trap range to review hunter and shooting safety, target shoot as well as instruction for proper safety and etiquette for hunting with dogs.

    At 8:30 all hunters and adult guides met at the JEPC office for a required informational meeting concerning JEPC rules and assignment of the hunting site. Each youth  was allowed to bag 2 pheasant of either sex. 

    Rose found 4 roosters in the first hour in a strip of uncut corn. However, whatever side Mike was on, the birds flushed the other direction. Mike was not skunked as Rose found 2 more roosters in the next 90 minutes and Mike bagged them both. 

  • 12/04/2018 12:06 PM | Eric St. Pierre (Administrator)

    by Bear St. Pierre, Illinois State Director

    Below is a message I received from one of past youth Sportsmen...

    Bear! How’s it going!? I’m glad to see you’re still doing what you love and know best. I also wanna say thank you for making me the man I am today. Growing up without a dad in my life I really looked at you as my father. We shared plenty of special moments together and I think about all those moments and memories and share them with my younger siblings. I don’t know if you’re aware of some of the others [kids from my neighborhood], but I see they all took the wrong path and wasn't listening to what you where teaching. Once again thank you sir, it was a blessing meeting you and Janie.


  • 10/27/2018 12:00 PM | Eric St. Pierre (Administrator)

    by Nick Pierson, Sangamon County Guide

    My name is Nick Pierson and I am a Guide for CTO Sangamon County chapter in Illinois. This past weekend I had the privilege of going to a CTO Sportsman Outing where 4 teenage boys got the chance to harvest free range deer with archery equipment.

    After we got to camp, the boys shot either their bow or a crossbow, that was provided by CTO. This showed the Guides what distance the young man was confident at shooting. Each boy got to pick out what “stand” they wanted to sit in based on what the land owners told them about each spot, and was paired up with a CTO Guide.

    The 15 year old boy that I was paired up with was Matt, from LaSalle County Chapter. Matt decided that he wanted to hunt the “Buckeye Tree” stand and, of course, it was the farthest stand away from the camp. Right then I knew this kid was serious about wanting to shoot a deer! Saturday morning came early and we were eager to get to the stand, so we got dressed in our camo and headed out to the timber. Although we sat in that tree until 10 that morning, we didn’t see anything but squirrels. While we were sitting there I asked Matt if he wanted to come back here for the evening hunt or try a different spot. He said he wanted a change of scenery and to try a different spot. After getting back to camp, I told him I thought that was going to be a really good afternoon stand and he would be mad at himself if someone else shot a deer out of that stand. Matt thought about it for a second and decided to go back to the “Buckeye Tree” that afternoon.  After we ate an awesome breakfast and had a “campfire” where we read Genesis 11:1-9, it was time to head back out! 

    So there we were sitting in the “Buckeye Tree” with the breeze blowing lightly and the sun shining brightly. After sitting there for a couple hours, and after Matt took his afternoon nap (don’t worry he had a harness on), it was getting close to what I like to call prime time. I was on high alert and just praying to the good Lord that a deer would walk by to give Matt a chance at a shot. And wouldn’t you know He answered my prayers and sent a little buck right into us! Matt was sitting to my left in his own stand.  The deer came out on his left, so as soon as we saw it I grabbed my phone, began videoing, and coached him the whole way. I was so impressed by his patience in this situation. Matt had his bow hanging on a bow hook to his left, so he reached around slowly and grabbed it. The deer was getting closer but had his head down eating as he was walking. I told Matt that once it gets behind a tree, to stand up. And sure enough, that deer read the script and walked right into the mowed path with a huge opening for Matt to put a clean shot on this deer! That’s exactly what Matt did, put a Rage in the Cage!! He made a great shot and stuck an arrow through both lungs. Little did we know when the buck ran off he would lose very little blood. When we got out of the tree stand and looked at the ground where he ran, there was only a drop of blood every 3 feet or so. After about 75 yards of this, Matt and I saw his lighted nock back in the timber in the area where the deer came from. We walked to it, but still very little blood. At this point we were getting close enough to another kid hunting that I didn’t want to ruin his hunt, so we backed out and waited. We were waiting for it to get dark or until we got a text saying that Hudson, the boy we were getting close to, had shoot a deer with a crossbow. Well we got the text “Kevin we need the tractor” which was Joe’s (Sangamon County Chapter Director) way of saying Hudson shot a deer! Kevin is the land owner and he uses a tractor to bring the deer back to camp. 

    Meanwhile Matt still didn’t know for sure if his deer was dead or ran off never to be seen again. The minutes (which probably felt like hours to Matt) were passing by while we were congratulating Hudson on his doe that dropped in the field.  It was getting dark quick. By the time we tagged Hudson’s doe and walked back to the timber where we saw last blood, it was dark. Now I am in this dark unfamiliar timber with 2 teenage boys who have never blood trailed a deer before and I began to pray again. “Dear Lord, I know it was a good shot please help us find this deer for this young man.” As we were searching for blood, something white caught my eye in the darkness. It was the belly of the deer that Matt had shot! I think we both yelled loud enough that the other guys in the field could hear us over the tractor. Matt was pumped and I couldn’t have been more excited for him. It turned out to be a 10 point buck.  Though it wasn’t huge, it still had 10 points and was his first deer kill. 

    After we got both deer back to camp and took lots of pictures, Matt got the chance to skin and cut up his own deer that he harvested with his own bow. Not many kids these days get to do those kind of things.

    The smile on Matt’s face said it all and that’s why I volunteer with CTO. Without volunteers and people that stepped up, this weekend would not have been possible for this young man. Thank you to everyone that played a part in Matt’s story on this weekend that he will never forget! 

  • 07/30/2018 9:51 PM | Anonymous

    by Joe Hardwick, Sangamon County Outfitter

    Last Thursday we had a great Sportman’s Night fishing at Hope Church. I loved what Jim Sullivan told me towards the end of the time fishing. He said he loved all the times we heard “Daddy I got caught a fish!” It was yelled out a lot that night. Which caused a lot of Dads to look up. 

    After fishing we all gathered together and Nick shared what the Lord laid on his heart about being Trustworthy. He asked the question, why it is important to be a trustworthy person?

    Later, as we were cleaning up, Jim’s daughter, Audrey and Dave’s son, Timothy were fishing. Then Timothy’s little sister Abby, asked Dave if she could fish too. We used a worm, because mostly bluegills were biting.  Audrey did catch a bluegill and told Jim, Daddy I got a fish! 

    >A few minutes later, we heard Abby had a fish on too. Her Dad helped her bring in her first fish! It was a bass, caught on a worm! Her smile says it all! She was so excited and asked her Dad if she could share the picture with the rest of her family. Thanks Jim for the great pic!

  • 06/28/2018 10:20 PM | Anonymous

    by Joe Hardwick, Sangamon County Outfitter

    I know we have all heard that phrase before. “Rain, rain go away come again another day” I felt that way before Sangamon County’s second Sportsman’s Night, but as I look back on that night, I see how in all things the Lord works for the good.  

    First, the rain caused us to quickly develop an indoor plan instead of fishing at Hope Church. Nick, our guide in charge of the Hope club, was called out to help restore power to the surrounding communities. Also, several young men could not make it for several different reasons. Some were serious, so we were asking the Lord for healing.

    Despite the setbacks, your Sangamon County CTO team rose to match the challenges with the Lord’s strength. Before leaving, Nick checked to see if we could use the gym to practice casting and for the Bible Study. He also shared with Jim his message notes.  Then Jim, Lou, and Trevor helped prepare the lines with indoor safe lures. We were blessed to have nine members come out and practice their casting while waiting for the rain and lightning to stop. 

    Jim led the Bible study adding what the Lord was laying on his heart in addition to what Nick had prepared. Towards the end we tried to head out to the pond, but lightning was still around. So there were several requests to have fishing for the next meeting on July 26th.

    My thoughts afterwards led me to think about how trees grow stronger in the wind. An article on Awesome Science Blog talked about a study on trees. This is how the article ended:

    “Remember, stress is what makes a tree strong enough to sustain the wear and tear that it’d face later in life.”

    We don’t wish for stress, but with adversity, we turn to the Lord in prayer, then use our teamwork and knowledge to adapt and keep moving forward.

  • 05/31/2018 10:53 AM | Anonymous

    By Joe Hardwick, Sangamon County Outfitter

     When you pray and plan for an event and that day is here, how do you feel - excited, nervous, happy, grateful or relieved? I am sure the Sangamon County CTO team felt all of those and more on our first Sportsman’s night.   

    Along with a year of praying and planning, there were meetings, fundraising, training, and sharing the Lord’s vision with our communities. May 31stwas the day circled on the calendar and it was finally here.

    The night would include fishing, archery, and an inflatable BB gun range at Hope Church in Springfield.

    The first young men showed up with a nervous smile, not really knowing what to expect. When they came out of the BB gun range holding their target, their smiles had grown and the nervousness had gone away. “What’s next Dad?” one boy said. Others were still staring at the targets, so their Dad had to ask, “What do you want to do next?”

    Some went to archery. The archery thrower was set up with large foam disks. The arrows and bow are from the archery tag set- so the tips of the arrows were foam (like the biggest marshmallow you had ever seen.)  The thrower was a little fast for beginners, so the disks were set up as stationary targets. It was hard to get the students to move away from that station but they still had fishing to look forward too. 

    We were truly blessed to use the ponds at Hope Church.  The other two stations could be set up in a variety of locations, but it was harder to find the perfect pond, especially one were beginners can have success almost every time they cast. Basically getting them “hooked” on fishing right away. 

    I was blessed to be able to assist Michael. He is thirteen and had not had an opportunity to go fishing before. He listened intently and after a few casts, he was reeling in his firstfish. Michael was smiling from ear to ear. He was someone I had in mind when I joined CTO. I hope when you come to a CTO event, you will take time to get to know Michael. 

    The day was threatened by rain, but the rain band broke up around us and reformed to the east. That gave us a rainbow to remind of God’s Grace. That led onto the Bible study and the question of the day, “What are you thankful for?” From the answers we received, I believe there is a bright future ahead. 

  • 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

    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 | Anonymous

    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.

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