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Tremendous 245-incher and Fantastic 172-incher: Year To Remember

Two brothers from Kentucky doubled down on huge bucks in the same season.

Tremendous 245-incher and Fantastic 172-incher: Year To Remember

The Ashbys turned to the outdoors in 2021 for solace and healing after their father’s untimely passing earlier that year. They agree their tremendous success was more than just a “dream season” — it was a blessing. Photo courtesy of Nick and Neil Ashby

The Ashby brothers are no stranger to big deer, but their 2021 season was like none they had experienced before. The story began in the fall of 2020 when Nick, Neil and their father, Brian, started running trail cameras on their 300-acre family farm to identify bucks for that season’s “hit list.” A few weeks later, it was time to check the cameras to see what was out there. In years past, the Ashbys had harvested great bucks off this farm, and the 2020 season was no different. One of the first deer to appear on camera was a 180-inch velvet buck with a few kickers that they believed to be three years old.

This buck seemed to be traveling up and down a creek in a section of woods they called the “acorn thicket” — a thick patch of trees that contained a tremendous number of acorns during the early part of the season. Although they thought this deer was still young, they could not resist placing him at the top of their 2020 hit list. This great deer would eventually earn the name “King Louie.”

The cameras showed that throughout the months of September and October 2020, King Louie consistently came in every couple of nights to feed on the corn pile. This gave the Ashbys hope that one of them would get a chance at the big buck. With the peak of the rut arriving the last week of October, the Ashbys were spread out all over their farm waiting for King Louie to appear, but he was nowhere to be found. In fact, not one camera revealed an image of him, and it seemed that King Louie had disappeared altogether.

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The Ashby brothers had multiple years of history with the monster buck they nicknamed “King Louie.” Trail camera photos show just how big the deer’s rack is, with tremendous tine length, multiple “sticker points” and lots of character. Photos courtesy of Nick and Neil Ashby

After several weeks with no sign of him, the Ashbys turned their attention to a few other deer on their list. Though ending the season with a few nice bucks, they still thought of Louie and wondered what might have happened to him. Living in a small town where everyone knows everyone, they were sure the giant had not been harvested. “I would have heard about it if someone had shot him,” says Neil. As the 2020 season came to a close, Nick, Neil and Brian were anxious to see if King Louie would reappear on camera the following spring.

On April 10, 2021, the Ashbys’ lives would be changed forever. Only 12 days after losing their grandfather, Nick and Neil received the horrific news that their father, Brian, had passed away in a tragic accident. Confused as to why their father’s life had been cut so short, Nick and Neil turned to what their dad had taught them. “Spending time in the outdoors is what my dad loved to do when he had a lot on his mind. So that is what my brother and I did,” Neil remembers.

With the 2021 season approaching, they were determined to make their dad proud by having the best deer season they’d ever had. And boy did they. In the early summer Nick and Neil started running cameras, and to their surprise they had multiple big deer on camera, including none other than King Louie. Throughout the summer the brothers continued to keep fresh batteries in the cameras and their hopes high. The cameras revealed that the buck, now believed to be 4 years old, had put on a tremendous amount of antler over the past year. And he now sported a rack with way over 200 inches of antler. Full of excitement, Nick, Neil and several other family members that hunt the family farm began preparing for opening weekend, hoping to get a chance at King Louie.

Once opening day came it was game on, and everyone hoped to be the lucky hunter that harvested King Louie. With Neil traveling for work and not being able to hunt, Nick began hunting hard from a homemade blind that his dad had built 25 years earlier. When the first few months of the season had passed with no sightings of King Louie, Nick’s patience was wearing thin, and he was beginning to consider a few other great bucks he’d seen on the farm.

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Neil wasn’t the only Ashby brother to score last season. Nick downed this stellar 170-class drop-tine buck while bowhunting on Nov. 4. Photo courtesy of Nick and Neil Ashby

Then, on Nov. 4, a 170-class buck with double drop tines stepped out in front of him. With the buck quartering away hard, Nick drew back his bow and released the arrow. Unsure of the quality of the hit, Nick backed out and called a trusted local tracker to help him recover his deer. The next morning, after several hours of searching, the tracking dog found the buck laid up in a thicket and Nick was able to recover his great deer. Now Neil was up to bat. But because he was traveling for work until Friday, Nov. 19, Neil realized that another family member or a neighbor still had a chance to harvest King Louie before he returned.

Once back at home, Neil was anxious to get in the stand to watch for King Louie. Needing a few supplies first, he woke up early Saturday morning and drove to a local hunting store to stock up on a few miscellaneous items. Then he raced back, hoping to get into his dad’s blind a little early in order to remain undetected. Neil anticipated that King Louie would be coming out from the acorn thicket, and with a southeasterly wind blowing directly toward it, Neil set up his Ozonics to keep his human odor to a minimum.




Several hours went by before there was any movement in the field in front of him. Then he noticed several turkeys that had moved in to feed, followed by a 4-point buck and several other deer. “With not much time to hunt this year before having to go back to work, I was tempted to take the first buck that walked out. But something told me to wait and to just be patient,” Neil says.

While watching the deer feed in front of him, Neil noticed that they continued to look back into the acorn thicket. “When I was at the hunting store earlier that day, I bought some code blue deer scent, and when those deer started looking behind them, I pumped a few sprays out the window. I hoped the wind would carry the scent into the acorn thicket and bring out whatever deer was in there,” he remembers. Within minutes a new deer walked out from the acorn thicket, downwind, and started to feed on the standing beans. “I couldn’t tell what deer it was, but I knew he was bigger than any deer I had shot before,” Neil says.

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Neil Ashby tagged this 245 2/8 non-typical on Nov. 20, 2021, while hunting in his home state of Kentucky. Neil suspected the giant buck was lurking in a dense acorn thicket downwind of his stand location. When several does entered a field beside the thicket, Neil sprayed Code Blue scent into the breeze — and the giant buck appeared. Photo by Abbey Schmittou

It took all Neil had to keep his composure. Finally, as the buck stood broadside at 150 yards, Neil steadied his gun and squeezed off a shot. The buck immediately dropped out of site below the beans. Neil didn’t know what deer he’d shot, but he wanted to give him plenty of time. He walked back to his car and called Nick to come out and help him retrieve it.

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While waiting for Nick, eager to see what he had shot, Neil decided to go back and take a look. When he reached the buck Neil immediately recognized it. With his emotions getting the best of him, he called his brother back and yelled: “It’s him! I killed King Louie!”

In record time Nick arrived at the field where Neil was standing with his buck. “My brother was just as excited as I was. He gave me a huge hug and said he couldn’t believe it was him. I am truly blessed to have a brother that watches after me,” Neil says.

After loading King Louie into the truck, the Ashby brothers headed to their friend’s farm nearby — which everyone refers to as “deer camp” — to show off Neil’s buck. They were greeted by 30 people who were already there waiting to see the deer that had been a local legend for the past few years. The Ashby brothers honored their dad that season by harvesting two great bucks. Nick’s deer officially measured 172 inches even, and Neil’s “King Louie” officially measured 245 2/8, making it Kentucky’s No. 6 nontypical on record, and the biggest to ever be harvested in their county.

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