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Antonin Scalia and the secretive Order of St. Hubertus hunting society, explained

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

The weekend he died, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was spending time with members of the Order of St. Hubertus — a society of hunters founded in the 1600s whose members are knighted on behalf of the king of Spain.

Scalia himself was not part of the all-male hunting club, as far as anyone knows. But his ties to a member of the group led to Scalia's invitation to the remote hunting resort near the Mexican border, where he would eventually die.

A cabal of the wealthy and powerful, founded in the US by diplomats and members of the military — the Illuminati, but for hunting — could be fertile ground for conspiracy theorists.

But the actual activities of the Order of St. Hubertus appear to be confined mostly to shooting birds and eating fancy dinners.

Here's what we know about the group's 300-year history, its relationship to Scalia, and its membership roster stacked with Army generals, Republican donors, lawyers, and Texan captains of industry.

St. Hubertus has existed in the US since the 1960s

The Order of St. Hubertus, named after the patron saint of hunters, says it was founded in 1695 by Count Franz Anton von Sporck. During World War II, Adolf Hitler disbanded the Austrian society because it would not accept Nazis as members, according to its website; after the war, it was refounded and expanded internationally.

Several of the order's first members in the US were high-ranking diplomats and members of the military who served in Austria during or after World War II. Its most active branch is in the southwest US, including Texas.

The Order, led by a grandson of the last emperor of Austria, isn't exactly a secret society. But it is fairly secretive. The "News" section of its website, which used to include many members' names, was removed at some point in the past year.

It's also a boys' club in every sense of the term. Members must be men, and the members of the largest American branch, which includes Texas, appear to be mostly middle-aged, white, and wealthy, many of them prominent lawyers, consultants, and CEOs in Houston.

Among them are John Poindexter, an eccentric multimillionaire who leads the order in the southwest US and who owns the ranch where Scalia died; and C. Allen Foster, a Washington, DC, lawyer and Scalia's friend, who invited the Supreme Court justice to the ranch in the first place.

How Scalia ended up mingling with members of the hunting fraternity

Poindexter told the Los Angeles Times he'd met Scalia once before, through Foster, when he was in Washington with a "sports group." (He didn't say if the group was the Order of St. Hubertus, although it held an induction ceremony in Washington, DC, in 2011.)

Foster, who is a Knight Grand Officer and chancellor of the Order of St. Hubertus, suggested Poindexter invite Scalia to the ranch for the weekend, and Scalia and Foster flew in together. Foster had once argued before the Supreme Court, on a voting rights case in 1993.

It's not clear how many other guests were also members of the group. Poindexter described it to the LA Times as a gathering of businessmen and "a group of friends sympathetic to the justice's views." And he told the Washington Post, "I am aware of no connection between that organization and Justice Scalia."

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