A hulking 700-pound black bear shot in New Jersey set a record for the largest ever killed with a bow and arrow in North America, a hunting organization announced.
Hunter Jeff Melillo shot the bear in Morris County on Oct. 14 — topping a record set in 1993 by a hunter in California, according to a statement from the Pope and Young Club bow-hunting and conservation organization.
A special panel of judges announced the new record during the Great American Outdoors show on Feb. 8, the organization said.
“It has been an inspiring journey, to say the least,” Melillo said. “New Jersey, my home state, has its First-Ever World Record Animal! Many years ago, I read an article in Outdoor Life Magazine stating that the New World Record Black Bear will most likely come from New Jersey. They were spot on, and I never doubted it for one second.”
Club records director Eli Randall said that the animal’s skull was more than 23 inches long.
“I was not prepared for the amount of mass the skull possessed,” Randall said. “Not only was the skull huge, but the bone structure was the heaviest I had ever seen.”
The animal is being preserved through taxidermy and will be displayed at Pope and Young’s annual convention in Virginia next month.
New Jersey’s black bear hunt has recently sparked a political firestorm — with Gov. Phil Murphy vowing during his campaign to seek an end to it. In 2018, he enacted a ban on hunting bears on state lands — as the New Jersey Sierra Club continues to push for a total ban.
After a nearly three-decade hiatus, the black bear hunt was reintroduced to the state in 2003 to curb the bears’ growing population. A state appeals court last year rejected a challenge to a 2015 expansion of the hunt.
During last year’s hunting season, 315 bears were killed.