MORRIS COUNTY, N.J. (CBS) — 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.

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NEW POPE AND YOUNG WORLD RECORD On Saturday, February 8th, the Pope and Young Club convened a Special Panel of Judges in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, during the Great American Outdoors Show, for a potential P&Y World Record Black Bear. Jeff Melillos’ massive bear scored 23 5/16 and is now the largest bow-harvested black bear in North America. The bear was shot in Morris County, New Jersey, on October 14th, 2019. Measurers present at the Special Panel were (pictured L to R) Dan Lynch, of Pennsylvania, P&Y Director of Records, Eli Randall, Terry Mollett of Pennsylvania, and Timothy Walsh of New Jersey. With a final score of 23 5/16, Jeff’s bear was confirmed as the new P&Y World Record Black Bear. This bear surpasses the previous World Record shot by Robert J. Shuttleworth Jr., taken in Mendocino County, California, on September 4th, 1993, with a score of 23 3/16. "It has been an inspiring journey, to say the least,” said Jeff Melillo. “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. 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. I’d also like to recognize the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife for the outstanding effort they put into the management of New Jersey Black Bears. The dedication from our biologists, technicians, and Conservation Officers, make this all possible. I'd also like to give a big thanks to United Bow Hunters of New Jersey. Their organization had a lot to do with getting a bowhunting season for New Jersey black bears. Without their efforts, I would not be writing this." You can see the life-size mount of this incredible animal at the P&Y Annual Convention in Virginia, March 26th- 28th, as part of the Bass Pro/Cabela’s Trophy Tower. The largest display of World Record, North American, bow-harvested, big-game animals ever assembled. For Convention Information, go to https://www.pope-young.org/convention/default.asp

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“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.

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.

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