January 26, 2024
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Ashlynn Schulz’s first encounter with the Pike County, Illinois, buck she later dubbed “Elvis” came during the 2020 gun season. He was a 3 1/2-year-old then with lots of potential.
“We prayed he made it another few years, but we knew it wasn’t a guarantee,” Ashlynn recalls. “So, when Dad found both of his sheds, we were happy.” In 2021, Elvis became a regular on cameras as a 4 1/2-year-old. His brow tines had a noticeable flip at the top, similar to that of Elvis’s hairstyle in the 60s. Ashlynn again hoped he could get just one more year under his belt.
“My dog, Barlee, and I found one shed and my dad found the other that year,” Ashlynn explains.
At 5 1/2 years old in 2022, Elvis blew up. After watching him all through the summer, Ashlynn and her dad were worried when he completely disappeared. They didn’t see him the rest of the year and never found his sheds, which added to the theory that he may have been gone for good. Then, in the summer of 2023, they saw the ghost while velvet scouting. He was a little far from where his home range had previously been, but he was alive and healthy. In that moment, Ashlynn and her father began making a plan to get the buck on the ground.
They put cameras up close to his new location with hopes of locking down his summer pattern. Elvis was consistently on camera from July to early September, but almost always at night. Then, in true Elvis fashion, he was gone shortly after shedding his velvet. This time, they were very worried about EHD. As season approached and no fresh photos of the buck were taken, Ashlynn worried again if she was hunting a ghost.
“We kept with our original plan and set up at a spot he had been consistently at,” Ashlynn says. “I hunted there multiple times with no sightings. With him being missing for over a month, we were back to the drawing board. We did some serious scouting and camera location changes. And just like that, as quickly as he had gone missing, he was back. It was right where I’d seen him during the 2020 gun season.”
He was home after being patterned nearly a mile away. Now 6 1/2 years old, Elvis was a smart buck. The valley he had moved to was also tough because the winds were inconsistent. Hunting in a stand was not an option, so the only chance they would have to take Elvis would be in the low valley below him during the afternoons when the thermals would pull down consistently. Once they found a spot where they could get away with the wind, they brushed a blind into the standing corn.
“We believed this location was between his two main bedding areas,” Ashlynn claims. “Connecting the bedding areas was a string of large community scrapes.”
Ashlynn’s first live encounter with Elvis in 2023 was on Oct. 28 just before legal shooting light ended. He was feeding broadside at less than 15 yards, but when she came to full draw she just couldn’t find him in the peep. It left Ashlynn feeling defeated to have hunted the buck for so long and have this happen. The wind was still good for that spot the next day, so she went back for another try.
At 1:45 p.m., she got a cell camera photo of him hitting a scrape 200 hundred yards away.
“At this point my heart dropped, because I was between him and what I thought would be his next scrape,” Ashlynn says. “But at 2:06 p.m., he came to the plot via an old logging trail. He stood at 46 yards, scanning the field for does. He was absolutely breathtaking. So much so that I froze as he continued walking on the trail out of sight. I instantly grabbed my bow and got ready in case he changed his mind."
Sure enough, he wrapped the far corner of the plot at 30 yards and started feeding her way. Ashlynn pulled back her bow and waited for her chance.
“He fed facing me for what felt like 30 minutes since my bow was already drawn back,” Ashlynn explains. “Finally he turned, and I took my shot at 25 yards at 2:14 p.m. He then ran directly at my blind to exit the field on a mowed path. That was a wild experience! I called my dad and my fiancé and they met me for the track job.”
Other than the part of her arrow that snapped off when Elvis lunged after the shot, they were not able to find any blood at all. They resorted to following his tracks. After doing so for 65 yards, they found Elvis piled up. It never occurred to Ashlynn until they walked up to him that Elvis could be a Boone & Crockett deer.
“I only cared about the history we had with him and the time and energy we all invested,” Ashlynn says.
Elvis green gross scores 176 5/8.