Justice Kagan and Justice Scalia Are Hunting Buddies—Really

"I shot myself a deer," Elena Kagan said of a recent big game hunting trip with the conservative justice in Wyoming.
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The Aspen Institute

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan bagged herself a deer on a hunting trip to Wyoming with Justice Antonin Scalia last fall. You heard that right: Despite finding themselves on opposite sides of major court decisions, the liberal Obama-appointee and the conservative Reagan-appointee have become hunting buddies since Kagan was confirmed in 2010 as the fourth woman in history to sit on the highest court in the land.

"I shoot birds with him, fairly -- you know, two or three times a year now," Justice Kagan said during a wide-ranging and delightful Aspen Ideas Festival conversation with Jeffrey Rosen, president of the National Constitution Center, on Saturday. "And then he um, at the end of last year we had been bird shooting four or five times. I'll tell you how that came to be. But before I do, before I -- he said to me, 'It's time for big game hunting.' And we actually went out to Wyoming this past fall to shoot deer and antelope. Uh, and we did."

"You're getting some hisses from the audience. I hope you were a better shot than Dick Cheney," Rosen interjected as a smattering of hisses emerged from around the room at the mention of hunting in Wyoming.

"I shot myself a deer," Kagan continued. "The way this started, I'll tell the story. You know the NRA has become quite a presence in judicial confirmations, and that means when you go around from office to office, from chamber to chamber, I met with about 80 senators individually and quite a lot of them, both Republicans and Democrats, ask you about your views on the Second Amendment. But because you don't say anything about your views on anything, when they ask you well, they'll try to figure out what your views on the Second Amendment are likely to be and they'll say, 'Well, have you ever held a gun? Have you ever gone hunting? Do you know anybody who's gone hunting?' And you know me, Jeff, I grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and this was not something we really did, you know.

"And so I kept on having these conversations where I would say no and no and no and I was -- and finally somebody said to me, one of these sets of these questions, and so I said, 'You know senator,' I said, 'if you were to invite me hunting, I would really love to go.' And this look of total horror passed over his face. You know, 'Has this woman just invited herself hunting with me?' And I thought, I've gone too far, and then I sort of pulled back and I said, 'I didn't really mean to invite myself, but I'll tell you what, if I am lucky enough to be confirmed, I will ask Justice Scalia to take me hunting.'

"And I went to Justice Scalia when I got onto the court, and I said, 'This is the only promise I made during my entire confirmation proceedings, so you have to help me fulfill it.' And he thought it was hilarious. He thought it was a total crackup. And so, there you go."

The two plan to go duck hunting in the future.

* * *

Watch the whole fascinating interview:

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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