Regardless of your faith, if you’re hunting today, Nov. 3, it’s most appropriate to give thanks to a man who was born 1,366 years ago. It is for he who we celebrate a Feast Day and, in some parts of Europe, often marks the unofficial start of hunting season.
His name was Hubertus of Aquitaine, the son of a Duke. His biography is legendary, ending with him becoming one of the now 10,000 saints recognized by the Catholic Church.
Hubert was born in Toulouse (see map) in 656. He nearly died from a fever at age 10, but survived and thrived, moving to Paris and getting ahead with a hard work ethic. At age 26, he married Floribanne, the daughter of the Count of Leuven. The young couple seemed to be well on their way to a happy life when Hubert was appointed mayor, then grand master of the Austrasian Court. However, tragedy struck when Floribanne died while giving birth to a son, Floribert.
A grief-stricken Hubert withdrew from society and headed to the Ardennes Forest where he became obsessed with bowhunting roe and red deer. The forest was rich with mast and browse from a variety of oak, beech, alder and ash.
The Ardennes is 4,300 square miles comprised of rugged hills, forests and wooded ridges across Belgum, France and Germany 4,300 square miles (approximately 2.7 million acres).
Legend holds that on a Good Friday morning, while the faithful were in church, Hubert was hunting in the forest. As he pursued a magnificent stag, the buck turned and looked at him. Hubert was astounded to see a crucifix floating between its antlers. He then reported hearing a voice say: “Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord and leadest a holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into Hell.” Hubert dismounted and prostrated himself, and after asking “Lord, what wouldst Thou have me do?” is told, “Go and seek Lambert, and he will instruct you.”
Hubert immediately returned home, renounced all of his belongings and gave his life to the church, becoming a priest and, later, a bishop. He was a staunch advocate for helping the homeless, hungry and poor. He died peacefully at the age of 71 in a small town near Liege.
In the Middle Ages, Hubert, along with Quirinus of Neuss, Cornelius and Anthony, was venerated as one of the Four Holy Marshals (Vier Marschälle Gottes) in the Rhineland.
Although we know St. Hubert as the patron saint of hunters, he is also the patron saint of dogs, forest workers, trappers, mathematicians and metal workers. For thousands of years, European hunters have viewed St. Hubert’s legacy as the epitome of hunting ethics and wildlife conservation.
Many American Catholic churches feature statues of St. Hubert. Some show him with a quiver full of arrows and a recurve bow. Others show him with hounds, a horse and a long spear. We might never know the exact methods Hubert used when he was hunting (he probably used both), but the lessons passed down to us today remain as clear now as they were then: Don’t put hunting or any other worldly pursuit above your faith. It was further believed that God had seen Hubert’s obsessive hunting life as an unholy, idolatrous one that would lead him to Hell.
I know I’ve told this story many times before to the Deer & Deer Hunting fan base, but my personal connection with St. Hubert is special. I grew up in Hubertus, Wisconsin (yes, named after him), and attended St. Hubert’s Catholic Elementary for eight years. And, it was within the confines of that school that I wrote a theme paper in April 1981 of what I wanted to do “when I grow up.”
In that English essay, I wrote how I wanted to “become the editor of Deer & Deer Hunting” (a magazine which at the time was just five years in existence).
Yes, indeed, it has been a blessed and fulfilling career.
PRAYER TO ST. HUBERT:
By the grace of God may I always honor, thank and adore the Lord God who created the animals and saw that each species was good. Let me love the God who made humans in His own image and likeness and set them over the whole world, to have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth (Gen 1:26). By my honorable conduct as a hunter let me give a good example and teach new hunters principles of honor, so that each new generation can show respect for God, other hunters and the animals, and enjoy the dignity of the hunt.