State tickets Winkelman in hunting violation case

Associate Editor

Fergus Falls, Minn. Babe Winkelman, 54, host of popular outdoors
TV programming and a well-known Minnesota angler, was slated for a
court appearance this week stemming from an alleged deer hunting
violation from last fall. Officials in Otter Tail County said a
tentative plea agreement hadn’t been finalized as of Outdoor News
press time.

However, in an interview on Tuesday, Winkelman said he’d agreed
to pay court costs in the case, but wouldn’t accept guilt, stating
“We just want to put the whole thing behind us.”

Donald Edward Winkelman, known better as Babe Winkelman, was
cited along with wife Kristeen Winkelman, 42, and Michael W.
Martin, also 42. All were cited for the same violation unlawfully
attempting to take game with the use of two-way radios. The three
defendants are from Brainerd.

“We received a complaint they were using radios to take deer,”
said Dennis Lang, conservation officer from Perham. “They were
doing things by radio that you ought not do.”

According to conservation officer reports, COs received two
complaints during the firearms deer season last year regarding
illegal deer hunting on property owned by Babe Winkelman. Officers
“investigated and listened to radio traffic that clearly was
intended to assist in the taking of deer.”

In his report, CO Lang states he and another officer listened to
radio traffic on Nov. 15 near Winkelman’s land and “heard
conversations on channel 3 that were related to the location of
deer,” and that radio use appeared to be nearby. The following day,
officers again tuned in to channel 3. This time, they say they
heard a conversation that would aid in a deer hunt.

According to CO Chris Vinton, who investigated with Lang, “While
I was monitoring the radio traffic with Officer Lang, I heard
statements like: (male voice) “I’m going to get them out of their
beds,” and (female voice), “I’m in the stand, I’m loaded, I’m
ready.”

When checked, Babe and Kris Winkelman and Michael Martin were
carrying two-way radios, according to the reports. Lang interviewed
Babe Winkelman who told the CO he used the radios for safety
purposes, but not to aid in the hunt. Lang read from his notes
statements he’d heard on channel 3 and said Winkelman “admitted
saying those things.”

Lang said the three individuals were cited and three two-ways
were seized.

“We don’t discourage cell phones or radios for safety purposes,”
he said, “but when they’re used to coordinate (deer hunting) drives

Lang said fines would’ve been $270 for each individual.

Though his attorney, Dennis Lothspeich, of Brainerd, declined
comment this week, Winkelman said he and his family use two-way
radios for safety. And that’s what they were doing the day
Minnesota COs issued citations to himself, his wife, and
Martin.

“We don’t use (two-way radios) much, but when we do, we use them
for safety reasons,” Winkelman said. There’s a hunting cabin and a
number of hunting stands on his land so, “We want to know when
(hunters) get to their stands, and that they got there safely.

“We didn’t do anything wrong, period,” he said.

Because of his business, Winkelman said he’s aware of what’s
legal and not legal in the realm of hunting. “But,” he said, “there
appears to be a gray area.”

Winkelman said that he has no previous game hunting violations.
“We try to be a squeaky clean operation,” he said of Babe Winkelman
Productions, Inc.

Winkelman said during the time in which he received a citation,
he was doing a promotion for the DNR to encourage deer hunting as a
family activity and that he was doing it for free. He added that
the hunting land in Otter Tail County was purchased as a family
hunting retreat.

He said he’s managing the land for wildlife. “Some folks
(neighbors) are happy and appreciative of what we did there,
because what we’re doing is for the benefit of wildlife,” he
said.

Otter Tail County Assistant Attorney Cherie Clark said that a
plea agreement had been offered and had been accepted, but that the
three defendants hadn’t signed off on it as of Monday.

Winkelman said the plea included payment of court costs “a
couple hundred bucks.”

Winkelman, a periodic contributor to Outdoor News, also has
produced a number of tip-oriented outdoors videos through Babe
Winkelman Productions, Inc. He’s also the host of Outdoor Secrets
and Good Fishing. He’s a member of the National Fresh Water Fishing
Hall of Fame (1988) in Hayward, Wis., and was inducted into
Minnesota’s Fishing Hall of Fame in 2001.

Chuck Schwartz, DNR Enforcement supervisor for the west metro,
District 13, said there’s been an increase in people using cell
phones and two-way radios while hunting.

“It’s my gut feeling that it’s led to incidental illegal usage,”
he said. “There are legitimate uses in the woods.”

Adds Lang: “One reason why it’s not a bad idea to have a cell
phone on the stand is if people see violations, they can actually
aid law enforcement.”

Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa are just a few states that have
restrictions on the use of communications equipment while hunting
game.

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