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

    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 (Administrator)

    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.

  • 10/14/2017 12:00 PM | Joe Hardwick (Administrator)

    My friend Jim Sullivan shares his experence:

    Hi all, My name is Jim Sullivan with Sangamon County CTO.   My family and I attended the Brett Creager Memorial Youth Event at Sangchris Lake State Park on October 14th.  The annual event is put on by the Sangchris Waterfowlers Association (SWA).  The SWA is a group of waterfowl hunters who donate a lot of their time and resources to improve not only waterfowl hunting at Sangchris Lake but also to improve the lake itself.  

    This year's event saw 85 young men and women attend to learn more about waterfowl hunting. There were activities that included archery, dog demonstrations, build your own duck call, duck identification, and boat safety.  They also had free food for those in attendance and door prize drawings for ALL the kids who were there. They also had drawings for two guns and several youth hunting opportunities.    

    My family and I staffed the CTO table and were able to reach out to kids and their parents to talk about CTO and it's guiding principles of preserving our Faith and our outdoor heritage. I will say based on the conversations I had with parents and kids there is a need and interest in what we do and I find encouragement in knowing that we can reach this young generation.  I spoke with people who lived over an hour away and wanted to know more about how to find or start a CTO chapter in their area.  I met with people who genuinely care about the same principles that CTO stands for.  I have a great hope and faith that God will guide our chapter and make it successful. 

    Jim Sullivan

    "We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future".Franklin D. Roosevelt

  • 10/06/2017 2:51 PM | D'Lige Smith-Hughes (Administrator)

    The hunt this weekend was just as fun for the youth as it was for the Adults! With the crazy weather going in the states it has effected hunting too. This weekend was unusually hot and the deer weren’t moving as much as a result. We hunted hard, but no one was able to harvest this outing. However, we were able to see all types of other animals, and got to experience the excitement of hunting.

    We had 2 sportsmen hunting for the first time with CTO, and it was also their first time deer hunting. They were very excited to get in the field! In the evening we spent time building relationships through playing a card & dice game called Fill or Bust. The game is played by turning over a card and having to roll dice to score. The card dictated what type of bonus you got, or allowed you to take points away from your opponents. The game is fun for all because there isn’t a strategy and it can only be won by dumb luck; allowing everyone to be on an even playing field.

    Later all of the adults pranked the CTO Sportsmen’s by setting up deer decoys and we pretended they were real. Then Bear snuck around the house with a big stick and killed the deer with it, adding to the “Legend of Bear.”

    We may have been unsuccessful in the woods, but we were blessed to be successful in our ministry. One of our sportsmen, who has been apart of CTO for about 2 years, accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior, and is now part of the body of Christ. There have been many times throughout the years where the question, “Who has excepted Christ in their life to be their Lord and Savior?” and he would never raise his hand or say anything. Then when the question came up during the deer hunt he RAISED his hand!

    He said that he came to this decision to follow Christ through his CTO experience.  The amount of time we spend in prayer, quiet time, bible study and “Question of the Day” questions all contributed to his change of heart. Also, through the fellowship that we have with each other, how we’re not afraid to open up to one another and still have a positive view towards each other helped him better understand who God is and why He died on the cross for us.

  • 09/01/2017 12:00 PM | D'Lige Smith-Hughes (Administrator)

    This past August has been fun & busy for CTO, A New CTO Sportsman named Brendan joined CTO this past summer camp and has been regularly attending our weekly Sportsmen’s Nights. He also attended and event with me called “Canaan Safe House” where two local churches partnered to put on an event in Hessel Park and asked CTO to set up a small archery range.

    The goal was for us to help the children served by Canaan Safe House to be able to learn archery. At first Brendan was nerves about helping and showing the kids the proper way to shoot, but after watching me and giving it a few try’s he got the hang of it and soon I was able to step back and watch him take over for a little bit.  This is how we help our CTO Sportsmen develop confidence and leadership skills.

    We also had our quarterly Family Night at the end of August where the boys celebrate with their families. We enjoyed stories from summer camp, food, and plenty of deserts. We played games and had prizes for the Winners, one game we played was “Indian leg wresting’” suggested by Bear, which was fun for the parents to watch their boys do this difficult task.

    Now that its September we are getting ready for Hunting season, next weekend is our Upland Bird hunt and we cant wait to get the boys out in the field and harvest Pheasants, Chukar, and Quail. Pray for us that we have a safe trip there and back, but not just for the up coming hunt but for the rest of the hunting season. Also pray that we teach the boys to harvest animals in God’s name, and not for the purpose of just hunting for hunting’s sake.       

  • 08/26/2017 12:00 PM | Joe Hardwick (Administrator)

    This year’s Hunt Expo was a great experience for our Sangamon County CTO Chapter. Scheels set us up in a great location. Friday was the start of high school football, so it was a slower evening.  The guests that did come out did not feel rushed, so we were able to talk longer. Several young men we talked to were really into hunting and not football. They were looking to buy our hats and t-shirts we had on display. We may have to consider this as a form of advertising.

    Saturday was busy from the start. The dog shows really brought the families out. There were several younger boys that were interested and excited about CTO. Some of the parents said their sons were taking a break for Boy Scouts and looking for something to do. We had some interest from young ladies too. We communicated we would like to have a girls group as soon as we can get a female leader to start a club with-in our chapter.

    Over all, it was a great partnership with Scheels. We would definitely want to attend next year. We all felt more like a team while we served side by side. I want to thank the Sangamon County team members who worked the booth, Lou, Nick, Jim and Alex. Also special thanks to D’Lige from the Champaign County CTO chapter for his help.


  • 08/01/2017 4:06 PM | Eric St. Pierre (Administrator)

    For the past 14 years Cross Trail Outfitters - Youth Hunting & Fishing Club has been providing some of the most amazing hunting and fishing adventures for kids through our CTO Ultimate Summer Camps!

    At the end of each CTO hunting camp, we honor the participants with an antler ring necklace that symbolizes so much of their experience, that I wanted to publicly explain the significance of the meaning of the Antler Ring. 

    The antler is the fastest growing bone known to man, produced by blood, and developed by minerals from the soil. The antler is shed annually, representing a season of growth and maturity, as most hunters or landowners will judge their herd by the annual development of the antler. If a deer is injured or sick, it may grow awkward in a season. Every antler is unique by design, as the DNA and the chemical make-up is different in each animal.

    As for the participants at camp and our chemical make-up, we are each different and unique by design! However, as Christ followers, we are linked as brothers and sisters through the blood of Jesus that He shed for us on the cross!

    When we see these kids throughout the year and at camps annually, and as leaders, we are looking to identify signs of maturity and Spiritual growth.

    We typically find an antler from the farm where we have hunted, fished and fellowshipped for the week, understanding that the ground we have played on has also helped produce the antler.

    And when we circle up for instruction, or around the campfire for our devotion, prayer, etc., it's never perfect, but our Lord and Savior Jesus was, and the perfect circle in the middle represents Him!

    As we circle up as a group, side by side, only those who participate during the week receive a slice of the antler~

    Connected and bonded together for a season, and then split apart as we go our separate ways and walk down the trails of life-

    It's just a piece of bone on a necklace, but it represents a whole lot more to those who understand!

    Kevin Potts - Texas State Director

  • 07/15/2017 11:45 PM | Eric St. Pierre (Administrator)

    We had many firsts this year at summer camp. Some of the firsts were the locations we were able to fish, others were the Sportsmen who were able to experience camp, and one that I was excited about was having our first LCU camp team be part of our staff, allowing me to take a breath and focus more on spending time just listening to our boys.

    One of these conversations was one young man was feeling that this summer God had put him in position to have significant spiritual growth; he wanted to keep experiencing his fresh growth on a continual basis. Initially my mind went to John 15, and shared with the young man about abiding in the vine of Jesus. I discussed with him my experience with the apple trees that came with Janie & I’s new home last summer. Both trees were lush with beautiful green leaves and were very healthy with many branches, but neither of them had produced much fruit. In fact we only came away with enough apples to provide one bowl of apple sauce from both trees, not very productive. It wasn’t until the fall that I found out what was going on with the trees. I was informed by and arborist that whereas the trees looked healthy, all the extra branches were sucking the nutrients out of the tree therefore keeping it from bearing fruit. She called these branches the sucker branches! I was instructed to prune the branches back off the tree, and when I thought I was finished pruning to prune even more. It wasn’t until I was able to see the results of this pruning that John 15 became a completely different reality to me. This year both trees are producing bushels of apples and I have even gotten to enjoy eating them straight from the tree! 

    It was after explaing the fruit metaphors with a real life experience that I was able to share with this young man that your walk will not always “feel” like the high he was experiencing this summer. Sometimes we need to be pruned so that we can bear more fruit. These times can and usually are unpleasant. It was then that we talked about Whose you are! 

    I shared with the young man about how we belong to God and are called to be like Jesus! That is the future glory Paul tells us about in Romans 8 and what we will experience in order to “…be conformed the image of his Son,” It is this truth that we must remember when our “feelings” don’t align with that truth. In these instances we need to put our trust in what we know to be true, and not how we “feel.”

    As you reflect over this story what season are you in? Are you in a season of growth, or a season of pruning. What is it God is taking out of your life (sometimes these can be good/positive things) so that you can bear more fruit. Make sure you take time to abide in the vine and only focus on the calling He has placed on your life for the season you are currently in.

    Click here to see more pictures from this event

  • 07/01/2017 3:43 PM | Joe Hardwick (Administrator)

    What would do if a friend sent out a message for help? I am sure you would help if you could. A few weeks ago a friend posted on Facebook “I’m am losin’ it here!”

    Where she was at the time was in her house with her eight kids. Six are between the ages of 9 to 13. One problem was when she asked for chores to be done, she was receiving a reaction like she was asking them to climb Everest. She was looking for real world advice on how to survive another minute.

    I posted a comment to ask permission to take them out camping to our family farm. I even said we could go that day. After a couple replies of “are you sure” and “who will be there to help you” we were able to work out the details. Another friend even posted, going to a farm in July will help the chores at home go a lot smoother.

    I knew the Lord was with our plans because of how smoothly everything worked out.

    My three sons and four of their sons were able to camp out that night. There were major storms forecasted, but the Lord had other plans. We were able to talk about Him by the campfire that night. Everyone had a “chore” to do to help prepare the fire and the meal, but they did not realize that what they were doing until we talked later. I had just asked one of them to do me a favor one at a time. After the “work“ was done we enjoyed some hotdogs, s’mores, and walk in woods. During the darkest part of the night, we watched a baby owl calling to us from a tree above. The next morning, we were able to go rock hunting in our natural cool spring on one of the hottest days in July.

    We were all preparing for what the Lord has in store for us in the future. These young men and my sons will be ready the next CTO event, and I will be a part in the planning those events for them and other young men.

    At Church, their Dad told me how much fun they had, and their Mom sent me a message this morning, “the boys had a blast and would love to do it again! Thank you for investing in them!” The reason I share that, I want to give thanks to the Lord for helping me step out and do what He is calling me to do.

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