Last fall, Babe Winkelman, a nationally known outdoorsman and communicator was cited for the alleged illegal use of two-way radios while deer hunting on his property in northern Minnesota. He claims that the use of the radios in his hunting party was for safety reasons…which, in my mind, is a perfectly legitimate reason for their use.
Yet, a local conservation officer who had been monitoring those communications saw it differently and made a citation. Eventually Babe petitioned the court with an Alford plea which essentially doesn’t admit to guilt, but concedes that the evidence of the case would likely point towards a conviction. Babe paid his dues which included a $200 fine and a community service component consisting of writing an article about hunting ethics. Click here to read more.
But this posting isn’t about whether Babe was right or wrong with the use of his electronics last fall. Certainly with the evolution of technology we will all be faced with new challenges that might at times put us on the wrong side of the law. Indeed, I am frustrated with the folks who are now condemning poor Babe as a lawbreaker. I’ve read that several of these individuals are calling for groups, such as the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, to “cut all ties” with the Babe. These are the folks who truly disgust me.
Let me state that I do not personally know Babe, although I once heard him give a lecture to a group of outdoor writers at a convention in Maine. It was truly one of the most inspirational talks I have ever heard. Babe described how early in his career he was to lecture a group of fishermen…but that things started off all wrong. As I recall the details, Babe was so nervous…that he tripped and fell face-first on the stage. Talk about a dramatic entry!! The entire audience was laughing…and this budding outdoors communicator was suddenly at a pivotal point in his career. His choices? Well, he either must pick himself up and now overcome the tremendous stage fright or walk off to never be heard from again.
Obviously, we all know which choice was made by Babe. He didn’t give up…in fact, over the course of 25+ years as writer and TV host I dare say he has inspired many of us to explore and better appreciate the great outdoors. Babe’s enthusiasm for the outdoors was evident whether you saw him in person or on TV.
I ask you this question…do we need more Babe Winkelmans in our outdoor world or should his illegal, albeit unintentional, actions from last fall be used against him to castigate a truly great outdoorsman? Consider this…place all of the positive things Babe has done to encourage enjoyment of the outdoors experience on one side of the scale. Now place his alleged law violation on the other side of the scale. Do the two even come close to balancing out? I DON’T THINK SO!!!!
To those individuals who choose to cast stones at this great outdoorsman I have but one thing to say. Babe Winkelman promotes the outdoors positively and touches the lives of more people in one week…than any of the nay Sayers will achieve after a lifetime of whining about another person’s success. Rather than bring a person down for making an honest mistake…let’s encourage him on, to learn and to grow from the experience.
I wholeheartedly encourage the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association to continue their alliance with Babe as their official spokesperson. He’s a man of great character who deserves far better treatment than some individuals in the outdoor world have given him after his mistake.
© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.