NEW JERSEY - A bowhunting organization says a 700-pound bear shot in New Jersey last fall has set a world record as the largest black bear killed with a bow and arrow in North America.
The Pope and Young Club, a bowhunting and conservation organization, said the bear killed Oct. 14 in Morris County toppled a record set in 1993 by a hunter in California. The new record was announced after a special panel of judges was assembled Feb. 8 in Harrisburg during the Great American Outdoors Show, the group said.
“It has been an inspiring journey, to say the least,” hunter Jeff Melillo said in a statement quoted by the organization. “New Jersey, my home state, has its first-ever world record animal!”
Club records director Eli Randall said the animal's skull measured over 23 inches and had a bone structure that he called “the heaviest I had ever seen."
Melillo recalled an Outdoor Life article suggesting that a world record black bear would likely come from New Jersey one day.
“They were spot on, and I never doubted it for one second. I’m very grateful that I get to be a part of all this. Pursuing bears with bow and arrow is a passion of mine,” he said in the organization's release.
The bear, preserved through taxidermy, is to be displayed at the Pope and Young Annual Convention in Virginia in March.
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The state's black bear hunt has generated controversy in recent years, with Gov. Phil Murphy vowing during his campaign to seek an end to it and in 2018 instituting a ban on hunting bears on state lands. The New Jersey Sierra Club is still seeking a complete ban.
The hunt was reintroduced in New Jersey in 2003 to control the growing bear population after a nearly three-decade hiatus. A year ago, a state appeals court rejected a challenge to the 2015 expansion of the hunt. A total of 315 bears were killed during last year's hunting periods.