Like father, like … daughters

We all know that Babe Winkelman is truly passionate about the outdoors. You can’t fake enthusiasm. After talking with his wife, Kris, and four daughters, I could hear that same desire in each one of them. All of his daughters have love and respect for the outdoors, and all believe being in the woods with Babe has strengthened the family. Babe has four daughters: Jasmine (28), Donielle (27), Mackenzie (23) and Karlee (14). The girls have the opportunity of learning from the only outdoors figure to be inducted into the prestigious Sports Legends Hall of Fame, their dad. Babe said, “I’m very proud of all of them. They hunt hard, and are willing to work hard at it. They do it for the sake of fun, particularly as a family, and don’t freak out if they don’t get anything. What more could a daddy ask for from his girls?” Each one of his daughters share a special hunting memory with Babe, and each girl is unique in her own way.

L-R: Karlee (kneeling), Mackenzie, Babe, Jasmine, Kristen (kneeling) and Donielle. Photo courtesy of Babe Winkelman Productions, Inc.

Jasmine’s first hunt she went on was by rifle for the mighty whitetail. She has hunted every year since she was 12 years old, and has only missed one year. Jasmine even made it to deer camp while pregnant. Although she didn’t make it into the woods, she still went for the family camaraderie. The only time she missed deer camp all together was the year she was hit hard with H1N1 flu.

Jasmine has great memories of turkey, pheasant and rifle hunting but one really stands out. Her first turkey hunt was with Babe in Kansas. They both dropped a turkey at the same time and needless to say her dad was proud.

“I hunt because that’s the way it’s supposed to be,” said Jasmine. “It’s natural to hunt. I love nature and being outside.” Her advice to others would be to try different things. Different people will gravitate to different types of hunting. Taking her own advice, Jasmine will be trying something new in September – a Caribou hunt with Babe and Mackenzie.

All the Winkelman sisters go to deer camp to have fun, but last year was Donielle Winkelman’s first hunting trip that she actually harvested an animal. Pheasant hunting with her family was a perfect way to start since she likes action. When Donielle was born, the doctor said she would never be able to walk; it’s amazing that she stands on her feet all day for work. When she was born she was diagnosed with a deteriorating bone disease. “Walking rough terrain can be tough, but I just give my leg attitude and get through it,” Donielle said. Her first surgery was supposed to take two hours and it ended up taking fourteen hours. Babe went out and bought a black gold ring with a horse shoe on it. Babe calls it his good luck ring, since the surgery was a success. Hunting can be very uplifting and provides her with a sense of self-assurance that toughens her spirits.

Donielle wishes she would have started hunting a long time ago. Next year at deer camp she is going to rotate with her sisters. “Hunting gives you a real sense of accomplishment,” said Donielle.

Mackenzie also has been hunting since age 12; the first time at deer camp was unforgettable for her as a young lady. All the guys were going around the table sharing their hunting success in the woods. Mackenzie was not anxious to tell her story because she had missed a shot at a nice buck that day, she was embarrassed. Everyone teased her a bit as she expected but after that she learned to give it back to them. She said, “I’m not just there to hunt, I am also there to have fun.” Mackenzie shares the same love for deer camp as her sisters and Kris.

Turkey hunting is Mackenzie’s ultimate favorite, and she always wanted to tag an albino turkey. “I think they are beautiful and fascinating,” said Mackenzie. At age 22, she took a turkey-hunting trip with Babe in South Dakota. It was in South Dakota where she got her chance of hunting an albino turkey. Babe also shared the same dream. Babe sacrificed his opportunity to shoot the albino and said, “Take it, Kenzie.” So she did, now she has a beautiful stuffed Albino turkey sitting in her living room.

Babe with daughter Karlee when she was one month old. Photo courtesy of Babe Winkelman Productions.

“It doesn’t matter what I am hunting for, I just love being outdoors,” said Kris . “Being with the girls makes hunting even better.” Karlee was only four-months old when Kris and Babe took her turkey hunting in Montana. “I carried her to the top of a mountain in a car seat, “ Kris said. “She was head–to-toe in camo, and looked so darn cute. Karlee was smiling and content as she could be.”

The most memorable hunt Kris has ever been on was when Karlee shot her first deer at age 12. “It was more exciting to see her shoot her deer than it was when I shot my first deer. I was shaking for her! One shot and she dropped it in its tracks 100-120 yard away,” said Kris. Hunting has affected them as a family in a positive way. A family that fishes and hunts together stays together is what Kris lives by.

Kris shared some great advice for new female hunters. Being a woman at deer camp can be intimidating, according to Kris. It’s important to teach kids all aspects of hunting, including getting them familiar with the kitchen and cooking their own game. Some lodges and guides cater to women now. They have spas, hot tubs and indoor plumbing. Every experience she has had with male hunters has been great at hunt camps.

“I hunt because I think it is right to harvest an animal for meat, it’s the natural way of life,” said Karlee. To date Karlee has taken five deer with the farthest deer being 200 yards away. Babe said, “Karlee is an amazing shot.”

Karlee says she is different from most girls at her school. Not a lot of the other girls hunt. She only has one girlfriend who will go along on hunts. Karlee considers herself her mentor. “She doesn’t shoot yet, but she is beginning to see what hunting is all about, “said Karlee.

The admiration for her father was in her voice. Karlee spoke about the dream of having her own show someday and following in Babe’s shoes. The idea of giving seminars and teaching others about the outdoors is definitely in her blood.

Visit Babe Winkelman’s website for updates on fishing and hunting, as well as outdoor secrets, recipes and shows.

  • About Kristen Monroe

    Kristen Monroe began her career working for Bast Durbin selling advertisements for the outdoors industry in 2007. She currently writes for Outdoor News Publications in an outdoor blog called Pass It On.


The Conversation

  • Tammy Ballew says: June 23, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    Great article, Kristen! I loved reading about Babe and his family and how he’s instilled in them the love of the outdoors. Thanks so much for sharing that with us.