40 Years Later: What Keeps Babe Winkelman Returning to Northeastern Ontario
One of North America’s most famous and influential sportsmen, Brainerd, Minnesota resident Donald ‘Babe’ Winkelman, is coming to Northeastern Ontario! With a long and celebrated career spanning more than four decades, this down to earth mid-western boy named after his hero ‘Babe’ Ruth, has dedicated his life to the great outdoors and garnered a huge fan base along the way.
This fall, Babe brings his popular television show, Outdoor Secrets, to the wilds of Northeastern Ontario with a 3-day waterfowl hunt hosted by Peter and Terry Martin, owners and operators of KapRiver Outfitters. The KapRiver episode of Babe’s Show will focus primarily on fowl – ducks and geese with some grouse hunting as well.
Babe is a four-time hall of famer, recipient of the Excellence in Craft award from the Outdoor Writer’s Association of America, and once even appeared as a guest on the Donny and Marie Osmond Show. He was eagerly awaiting his voyage to Ontario’s north country when I got an opportunity to chat with the legendary outdoorsman about his upcoming trip.
Jeff Morrison – Mr. Winkelman, thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions as you embark on your next Northeastern Ontario adventure, hosted by KapRiver Outfitters in ruggedly beautiful Kapuskasing.
(JM): As a proud resident of the US Midwest, what is it about Ontario’s North Country that has you coming back year after year?
(Babe Winkelman): The majesty of the pre-Cambrian shield, the abundance of wildlife and the fantastic fishing! I started fishing Ontario in 1969 and have been back every year since. I started hunting there a couple of decades and have hunted there almost every year since. There’s a lot to love about Ontario!
(JM): I know it’s difficult to choose a favourite sporting activity, being an avid multi-species angler and all-round hunter, but if you had to choose but one activity above all else, which would it be?
(BW): I guess just being there, seeing the flora and fauna the way God built it and having the feelings, sounds, smells and sights to soak-up. I love hunting and fishing both, but it’s the office I work out of in the wild that offers the greatest pleasure.
(JM): Some folks may not be aware of your vast achievements over the years – serving as President of the Minnesota Bass Federation, for example, or the Masters Walleye Circuit which you co-founded. Of all your noteworthy accolades, which are you most proud of?
(BW): In 1992, being inducted into the Sports Legends Hall of Fame. There were 33 athletes from around the world that evening; it’s a global Hall of Fame. There were three people from the US that night; Evander Holyfield for boxing, Pete Rose for Baseball and me for Fishing. I am the only person that has ever been inducted into that hall of fame for the anything outdoors. The others that night came from all over the globe from Australia to Russia. The event took place in Columbus, Ohio operated by the Touchdown Club of Columbus. Pete Jackson from CBS was the MC for the evening. I’ll never forget it. I have been inducted into four different Halls of Fame, and they are all great, but this was the best! I was also featured in PEOPLE Magazine in 1988 and that was pretty special too.
(JM): Anyone who has followed your career over the years can see how important spending time with family and friends is to you. Who would say has been your most cherished hunting & fishing companion?
A (BW): My wife Kris. When I met her during an autograph session in Milwaukee, I was told by her girlfriend that she had to fish with me before she died. I thought she had a terminal illness and agreed to talk with here later. Turned out she was as healthy as a horse and a huge fan. We went fishing and it hasn’t stopped since. I took here on her first hunt and she loved it and killed a huge 6 x 6 Bull Elk on the last night in Utah filming a show for Outdoor Secrets.
(JM): After appearing for decades on TV, producing great quality and enjoyable fishing & hunting television has become ‘old hat’ for you. Do you have an advice for anyone planning to launch their own hunting or fishing show?
(BW): Be very, very careful! The world is a completely different place than when I started. There is tremendous competition from new shows and only a few make it. Rather than a growing industry as it was when I started, it’s now a mature industry and a whole different ballgame.
(JM): When can viewers expect to see footage of your KapRiver Outfitters hunting trip?
(BW): On Outdoor Secrets 2017 which begins airing July 1st of that year and runs till the end of December. They can go to our website, Winkelman.com next June to get the exact times and network to watch it on. In Canada we run 4 times a week on Wild TV. In the meantime snippets and photos will start appearing on our Facebook and other Social platforms even while we are filming and after we are done.
(JM): Do you have any more hunting or fishing trips planned for Ontario this year?
(BW): We already filmed five different fishing shows and a bear show earlier this year. We do have another waterfowl show to film mid-October on the Canadian shores of Lake St Clair.
JM – Thank you so much again for being a part of this interview. Your fans across the Province of Ontario welcome you, and hope you enjoy your time in Northeastern Ontario.
Jeff Morrison is an award-winning outdoor writer, book author and Editor-in-Chief of Fish, Hunt & Ride magazine.