Whether you’re a hunter or not, in Wisconsin when the temperature starts to drop and the leaves start to change color people start thinking camouflage, blaze orange and deer. The Second Week of Deer Camp and Da Turdy Point Buck can be heard playing on the radio. Hunters start to gear up and hunters’ widows plan their weekends together. Hunting is part of life in northern Wisconsin.
Every hunter has their own traditions and rituals as they start to prepare for the hunt; getting hunting licenses, preparing shotguns and rifles, digging out blaze-orange snowsuits and poring over maps. And don’t forget heading ‘up north’ to the family hunting shack or deer camp. The preparation and excitement can be a tradition in itself.
There’s another tradition in Wisconsin’s Marinette County- Saint Hubert’s Shrine and its annual mass to bless the hunting season.
The Drive In
The turn-off to the Saint Hubert Shrine isn’t far outside of Goodman on Highway 8. The small green road sign reads “Shrine Rd”. It would be easy to miss it zipping by at 55 miles per hour. Don’t worry; you can turn around at the 8-HI Club (another area tradition) down the road.
Look at a map and there’s not much there. It’s a rocky, and many times muddy, logging road on Marinette County land. Like most northern-Wisconsin back roads, the trees form a canopy over the road and deer tracks mark the sandy roadside. Shrine mile markers appear on the side of the road to let you know you’re headed in the right direction.
The Patron Saint of Hunters
At first the quiet shrine area may not seem like much, but as you walk down the dirt road you start to notice the heart and dedication that went into making the site meaningful.
There are crosses, sure, but also small touches like perennials, a memorial bench at the side of a stream, a dedicated Forget-Me-Not Garden and a bathroom for “bucks and does”.
Walk a little further in and there’s a glass case protecting three pages of type-written history of the Saint Hubert Shrine.
According to the pages, Saint Hubert lived in the 700’s near the Rhine River. When his wife died he lost his spiritual way.
One Easter Sunday as he was hunting he came upon a giant stag. He saw a cross between its antlers and heard a voice say…
“Hubert, if you do not turn back to Christ and repent your ways, you will die and be consigned forever to the fires of hell.”
Hubert returned to the church, became a priest and then a bishop. His life in the church was said to be an inspiration to many. There are different versions of his story, but he is always remembered as the patron saint of hunters.
The Saint Hubert Shrine
The Saint Hubert Shrine is a Wisconsin hunting tradition that’s been around for 60 years. The second page in the display case, explains the purpose and use of the Saint Hubert Shrine. From Facts of Interest of the St. Hubert Shrine in Goodman, WI:
The hunting party: used to meet in the general area to lunch and share stories of the morning hunt.
The Shrine: was built in 1954 by deer hunters, who said prayers at this site before entering the woods, they asked for hunting and to be safe from accidents.
The Statue: was carved at the Svoboda Church Furniture Plante, in Kewaunee, by master wood carver, Norbert Petscheiter.
The bell onsite is the bell that used to be on Green Bay’s Walnut Street Bridge and the cross came from the Holy Rosary Church in Kewaunee. It may be a local tradition, but its reach extends beyond Marinette County.
The shrine is set at the edge of a grassy area surrounded by tall trees and sits alongside an inviting stream. Log benches and a bell come together to make a sort of outdoor church. One can easily imagine spending a few contemplative moments in the outdoors or gathering here to hear the annual mass to bless the hunting season.
More than a Shrine
Aside from the shrine itself, the area is also clearly intended to be a place for introspection and remembrance. It’s a place to remember the founders of the shrine and avid hunters and outdoors-men that gathered there over the years. It’s a place for nature lovers. A place for community. And of course, a place for hunters.
Catch Terra discovering, creating and parenting, one adventure at a time, on her website, Life as a Field Trip.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources