They've been called the “Illuminati of the Hunting World.”

The International Order of St. Hubertus: a secretive, ancient, aristocratic society, complete with robes, grand titles, and secret ceremonies, all supposedly dedicated to St Hubert, the patron saint of hunters.

And it was in the company of these men that Justice Antonin Scalia died on February 13, at the Cibolo Creek ranch, in Texas.

This may sound like the start of a Dan Brown novel. But conspiracy theorists will be disappointed to learn there doesn’t seem to anything fishy here, just an odd partnership.  

So what the heck is this secret society?

Wait a minute! There are no dukes and lords here in America, so who qualifies here?

The US chapter was founded in 1966 by generals and diplomats who'd been stationed in Austria during and after World War II, including General Mark Clark, liberator of Rome, and later commander-in-chief of allied occupation forces in Austria. Since then they've been joined by a long list of the rich and powerful: lawyers and above all, businessmen, captains of industry, CEOs, etc.

So is there anything fishy about this ‘'hunting'’ group? 

It really does seem that this is just an elite boys club (yes, men only); a fraternity of the privileged. A society for men who really love god's creatures; so much so that that just like to shoot them. The motto of the Order is "Deum Diligite Animalia Diligentes," which means "Honoring God by Honoring His creatures." They do good work promoting land conservation and ecological preservation, but chiefly for the benefit of hunters, and they also promote education in ethical hunting.

What was Scalia's connection to the Order of St. Hubertus?

So far nobody has found anything to suggest Justice Scalia was a member of the Order, or aspiring to become one. He traveled down to the Cibolo ranch with a high-flying DC lawyer buddy who is one of the Order's grand poobahs; and the ranch is owned by another senior figure in the Order.

So it looks on the surface like the event was just like a social function among like-minded folk. Scalia was a passionate life-long hunter, who loved to regale his biographers with stories about traveling the New York subway while in high school with his rifle.

In many ways, Scalia was not like those old aristos in Europe, and the great men in the haciendas of Latin America; his hunting was originally for food and fun as on ordinary lad, in and around his granddad's farm out on Long Island, not some noble preparation for war.



From PRI's The World ©2015 Public Radio International