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  • 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.

  • 06/01/2017 6:44 PM | Eric St. Pierre (Administrator)

    As the Lord continues to lead our ministry in Illinois we have seen our Sportsmen grow to college age individuals. Many of the young men that I work with, like most of their peers, don’t have a plan for after high school and often ask for guidance. One of the paths that some of these men want to take is college, but most of them along with their families do not know how to navigate their college future. Because of this reality God has put a burden on my heart to build relationships with colleges, universities, trade schools, and the military. 

    One such relationship we are continuing to develop is with Lincoln Christian University in Lincoln, Illinois. Our goal is to develop a partnership where CTO Sportsmen can have an opportunity to build relationships with current college students to see if LCU would be a good fit for their future.

    We were able to start this partnership through the Lincoln Christian University Camp Teams. These are specialized teams, developed at the college, assigned to camps throughout the summer. The closest team that matched us was the sports team. We were assigned the college athletes!

    In order to get these guys ready for the grueling schedule of Summer Camp we took them out for a three days of intense training. The team came to us with a great attitude, and a willingness to learn how to do the “outdoorsy stuff” of which they weren’t familiar. Activities like learning how to run the rifle & pistol range, throw tomahawks, run the archery range, and how to set up and tear down the mobile 5 stand unit.

    We put them through the paces and even shared with them the best kept CTO secret…shh (looks around to make sure no one is listening) whispers…how to cook CTO Eggs. Overall it was a great experience for both the LCU camp team and the CTO Staff. We look forward to seeing where this partnership takes us in the future.

    Click here to see more pictures from this event

  • 05/05/2017 10:00 AM | Eric St. Pierre (Administrator)

    May 29, 2017 marked the night of Cross Trail Outfitters (CTO) annual fundraising banquet at Round Barn Banquet Center in Champaign, IL.

    Master of Ceremonies, John Elder, led the evening, which featured presentations by volunteer guide, Ralph Johnson, Parent Testimonies, and Relentless Pursuit’s Tim Wells as the Main Speaker. Additionally, this years banquet included 20 bucket items, 20 silent auction items, 25 live auction items, a grill challenge, door prizes, and even dozens of chocolate-covered strawberries. One of the exciting live auction items was a pair of clippers that if sold for the right amount would allow the bidder to shave Bear’s head. Yep, that’s right – bald headed Bear. 

    More importantly this night also brought together a group of people whose goal was to see the lives of youth changed for the kingdom. Now more than ever, we see the true need of God’s transforming power. At CTO we saw this transforming power in the 108 decisions made for Christ, the 49 rededications and the 27 baptisms.

    But that’s just the start. We know that God has great things in store for CTO. Please consider praying about becoming a Root Partner or getting involved as a volunteer Guide.

    Click here to see more pictures of this event

  • 05/01/2017 9:00 AM | Kim Potts (Administrator)

    Here are the winners of the 5 Gun Give-A-Way

    1. Benelli Ethos Silver - Colin Atkinson
    2. Ruger 1911 Lightweight Commander - John P. Wolf
    3. Smith & Wesson M&P AR 15 - Tom Overmyer
    4. Sig Sauer P250 - Trish Bryant
    5. Remington 870 Express - Kevin Watson

  • 04/01/2017 12:00 PM | D'Lige Smith-Hughes (Administrator)

    We’ve noticed that in today’s world a lot of youth spend time indoors playing video games on a daily basis, and not connecting to His creation, the outside world! They may know who Jesus is and what he did for us, but still not have a relationship with Him. There are some boys that have a relationship with Jesus, but aren’t as close as they would like to be, so seeing where they’re at with their walk with Christ we can help guide them to get to where they need or would like to be with Jesus.

    The Question of the day for this weekend was “How is your relationship with your father?” Usually we have a mixture of Sportsmen on the hunt. Some with good relationships with their dads some do not have a good relationship, and some don’t have a relationship with their father at all. On this hunt all of the youth had a good relationship with their earthly father, as well as their heavenly one. This Hunt we really focused more on the Bible study rather than the hunt because it was still very wet and the birds were still not cooperating.

    During this discussion the boys shared how they were blessed to have relationships with their earthly fathers because many of their friends and classmates didn’t. We discussed how the lack of fathers for their friends made them act out; get angry, and bully people. We discussed that the root of this may be because they don’t feel good about themselves. We spoke about how they can help their friends by helping them build a relationship with their heavenly Father. Through sharing how Jesus feels about them, similarly to how we helped another CTO Sportsmen deal with being bullied. We were glad it didn’t rain as much though because this outing the firewood remained dry and we could have a campfire outside.

    Besides the campfire and hunt the boys always find away to have fun, even when their unplugged! We play board games, play catch with the hot hands, or just have Bear drive us around in the Mud Puppy!

    The Boys were also happy because there were enough beds for us all to sleep on and the landowners gave them the ok so they didn’t have to sleep on cots. They were very thankful for that and the good food!

    Click here to See More Pictures from this Event!

  • 03/25/2017 12:00 PM | D'Lige Smith-Hughes (Administrator)

    “Why do we need Jesus?” was our Question of the Day for our March Turkey Hunt Event. The purpose of the question was to have the CTO Sportsmen share with us why they personally need Jesus. We weren’t looking to have a theological discussion.

    The answer that stuck with me was from Phil (not his real name). Phil said that he needed Jesus to help him deal with bullying. He feels like people don’t like him because he’s different. We helped Phil work through his value, by asking him who’s opinion of you matters most? We helped him understand that Jesus’s value of him mattered most.

    Jesus’s opinion of us is more important than anyone else’s. It’s more important than our friends, family, classmates, or even our parents. We shared with Phil that Jesus loves him and that he was fearfully and wonderfully made by God. Jesus loves him so much that He willingly died on a cross to make sure Phil was saved. We made sure he understood that Jesus loves him, and that it is Jesus’s opinion of Phil that is even more important than Phil’s own opinion of himself.

    As for the hunt itself, our first Turkey Hunt of the year didn’t go quite as well as we planned. None of the Sportsmen were able to harvest a turkey or hardly see any, but we did hear a few here and there and the boys still had fun just hearing them gobble while using the Turkey calls.

    We were hopeful for the hunt going into this weekend. We invited Jim Unser, a professional Turkey Caller, to help guide. Unfortunately, it was so wet and rainy that we had challenges locating the birds, even with Jim’s Peacock call that usually shock them into responding.

    We prepared for the hunt by having the Sportsmen train with shotguns using a turkey target before we went out the first morning. This target had removable heads that allowed us to gage each Sportsman’s ability to hit the head correctly.

    After our hunt Mike Hall, one of the Guides, led us on a long hike through the woods. The boys enjoyed it because they were able to find antler sheds and animal remains.

    Click here to See More Pictures from this Event

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