The motive for the upstate New York sausage-maker’s winding pilgrimage to 80 hardscrabble acres of pastureland in North Texas was simple:
Joe Musacchio had grown bone weary of the bitterly cold northeastern winters.
Since high school graduation in the early ‘60s, he had worked for uncle Carmen Basilio’s Italian Sausage Company near Syracuse. Though founded by another of Joe’s uncles, Paul, it was decided that attaching Carmen’s name to the business would lend promotional clout. Carmen had, after all, defeated the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson in Yankee Stadium to claim the world middleweight boxing title the same year (1957) the sausage company opened for business.
It was on a 1982 family trip to Texas to visit a cousin that Joe fell in love with the state’s welcoming climate and wide open landscape. He also learned that little authentic Italian sausage was available in the region, And, by the way, the state offered far-ranging venues for game hunters, from white tail deer in the Hill Country to wild hogs in South Texas, mule deer in the Panhandle and antelope in the Big Bend.
An avid bowhunter since a teenager, Musacchio felt he’d hit the trifecta. Shortly, he and his family made the move and his Syracuse’s Sausage Company opened in the Dallas suburb of Flower Mound soon thereafter.
It was only later, after purchasing the plot of pastureland north of Fort Worth where he planned to build a wild game meat processing plant that he took stock of the remaining acreage he’d purchased and came up yet another plan:
His newly-named Cinnamon Creek Ranch would be an ideal place to spread the gospel of the sport that had provided him a lifetime of enjoyment. He ultimately sold his sausage company, leaving behind an industry to which he’d devoted 30 years of his life, and launched a new career.
That was in 2008.
Today, archers and aspiring bowhunters come from all over the southwest to learn and polish their skills under the watchful eyes of qualified instructors, They can browse the well-stocked pro shop where as many as 500 bows are available along with a vast assortment of arrows and other related equipment, compete in state and regional tournaments, and bask in the family-friendly atmosphere of a facility that closes only on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.
It has earned a nickname borrowed from the professional golf world: The Augusta of Archery.
What visitors find are three state-of-the-art indoor ranges, two outdoor practicing ranges, party and meeting rooms, catered meals, and multiple 3D ranges. In all, there are 250 targets at which one can take aim.
It is those found on the backside of the ranch that beckon to the aspiring bowhunters. Some, Mucacchio notes, have even arrived for practice by helicopter.
Located along trails that wind through mesquite and oak trees, past ponds and over a creek that meanders through the ranch, hunters find lifelike Styrofoam animals – from coyotes and wolves to deer, wild hogs, bear and big cats – positioned as targets. It is there aspiring hunters practice shoots from the ground, tripods, and elevated blinds.
And, naturally, it all begins with the development of basic archery skills.
Staff instructor Chris Lutsinger says the evolution from target-shooting archer to bowhunter is a basics-to-expertise process, determined by one’s natural ability. Teaching begins with safety procedures and evaluating the strength of the student and his or her ideal bow draw weight. (Most adult male hunters can draw a bow rated at 50 to 60 pounds; women, 30-40 pounds.) The newcomer will begin shooting at range targets from a distance of 10 yards, ultimately graduating to 20, then 40. Only when the archer is able to keep shots within an eight-inch grouping can he advance onto the trails leading to mock animal targets.
“There is no hard and fast time frame in which one can advance from the novice archer rank to a bowhunter,” Lutsinger says. “It depends on the individual. I’ve had some who are ready in just a few weeks. Others might take months.”
“One of the beauties of the sport,” says Musacchio, who still has the quiver of arrows he used at age seven, “is that archery and bowhunting can be lifetime activities. For the youngster who lacks the physical stature to play football or basketball, isn’t interested in baseball or becoming a world class runner, it is a place for him or her to excel athletically and have fun.”
There is even a national Bowhunters Hall of Fame, headquartered in Squaw Valley, Calif.
Start-up costs of the sport depend on one’s budget. “Generally speaking, you’re looking at the $800-$1,000 for your bow, peep (sight), and arrows, hunting license, etc.,” he explains. That said, the sport is akin to golf inasmuch as technology races on. “The evolution of bows, for instance, has gone from wood to aluminum to carbon. Same with the arrows.” And the serious hunter wants to keep up. “It’s like the golfer who starts out with a relatively inexpensive set of clubs, improves his game, and begins looking at a better driver or new set of irons that will help lower his score even further.”
Presently, he notes, current visitors to Cinnamon Creek Ranch range in ages from three to 80. And he is seeing more and more women show interest in bowhunting. “The sport,” he says, “is increasingly becoming a family affair.” To wit: His wife Nola, and son Joey are avid bowhunters.
The skills taught at Cinnamon Creek Ranch have a storied history. If, in fact, those crude cave drawings of stick figures brandishing weapons pointed at wild animals are true recordings of mankind’s history, we can safely assume the art of bowhunting has been with us at least since the Stone Age.
Today, there are statistics showing that its popularity has grown steadily. In the United States alone there are 4.64 million active bowhunters. Recently, the runaway success of the “Hunger Games” novels and motion pictures have piqued the interest of a new generation of archers and hunters.
And the line between competitive archery and bowhunting continues to dim. Two-time Olympic archery competitor Brady Ellison and world champion Levi Morgan, for instance, have bowhunted since the were youngsters.
It is the uniqueness and skill required of the sport, Lutsinger suggests, that increasingly cause hunting enthusiasts to put aside a rifle and pick up a bow. “The two kinds of hunting are light years apart,” says the instructor who has bowhunted since he was 11-years-old. While a rifle hunter might take a shot from distances of up to 200 yards, the maximum distance from a target for even a gifted bowhunter is in the neighborhood of 40 yards, making slow, into-the-wind stalking of the animals a key part of the hunt.
It is a trek Joe Musacchio has made more times than he can recall, in wilds throughout the nation. The high walls of his ranch’s administrative building look like a taxidermist’s showcase, filled with a wide variety of trophies from past bowhunting successes. And, he insists, he’s not through. “I’ve still got a few things left on my bucket list,” he says.
Such, one might assume, is the bowhunter’s creed.