In 1929, Frank Hibben had the adventure of his life. Just a teenager, Hibben was part of a scientific expedition to collect birds and small animals in Idaho. Prior to that, scientists knew little about Rocky Mountain wildlife. “Idaho was a blank,” says Hibben.
Hibben and his boss, A.B. Fuller, were also told to collect grizzlies and bighorn sheep for display at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History. To help guide them, they hired Robert Limbert, a renowned explorer, photographer and trick shooter.
Hibben first met Limbert in a saloon in Ketchum, Idaho, where Limbert was putting on a shooting exhibition. Hibben was suitably impressed. “Bob made no secret of the fact he was the pistol champion of the world. He outshot the Chicago Police and they had some of the best marksmen in the world,” Hibben recalls.
For the next three months, the trio explored what is now the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area. “We were in places no European had ever traversed because you couldn’t get a horse through there. I’m sure we weren’t the first people to go down there, but as far as we knew, we were,” Hibben says.
During the trip, Hibben was impressed by Limbert’s outdoor skills and “prodigious strength.” “He was sort of a blocky fellow, not awfully tall and he was carrying, I would guess 150, 180 pounds. And he would carry it out and bring back rock salt for salting the other skins. He was loaded both ways,” Hibben recalls.
The expedition collected thousands of specimens and discovered a handful of previously unknown animals. In one area, the trio found more species of birds than anyplace else in North America.
Hibben became a renowned archeologist and excavated sites in Africa, Europe, South America and the United States. Hibben led the excavation of New Mexico’s Sandia Cave, site of some of the earliest evidence of mankind in the New World.
Hibben combined his career with his love of big game hunting. While on the Idaho expedition, Hibben, as a teenager, shot a grizzly bear. Since then, he has hunted around the world. In 1964, he won the Weatherby Big Game Trophy, awarded to the top big game hunter in the nation.
Now in his 80’s, Hibben says the Idaho expedition was a pivotal experience. In addition to becoming a renowned big game hunter and archeologist, Hibben has written dozens of books and hundreds of articles. For that, he credits Bob Limbert. “Limbert was a great writer. He put words together very well. I think that’s part of what got me started,” Hibben says. And, Limbert influenced him in another way. “Limbert had boundless enthusiasm. He loved these places. And so do I.”
Books and articles by Frank C. Hibben
Hunting American Lions
Digging up America
The Lost Americans
Trek for a Record
Tigers of Arjuni
The Bad Boar of Darling Place
America’s Oldest Hunting Weapon