For "shed hunters" – a passionate clade of foresters who spend much of their spare time hunting for moose antlers in snowy woods – finding a freshly shed, matching pair is near the top of the wishlist. Antler-collector Derek Burgoyne got that and more when he recently filmed the rare moment a bull moose shed its pointy headgear, before following its tracks to retrieve the fallen prize.

Burgoyne, who works as a woods operation supervisor, was surveying birch and maple trees using a drone in a remote patch of New Brunswick when he spotted a trio of moose bedding down in a clearing. As the animals began to disperse, Burgoyne tracked one of the bulls with his drone and began recording. 

"What they’ll often do after being bedded in the snow is they’ll shake their body to rid themselves of the snow and water," the drone operator explained to CBC. But this moose shook off a lot more than just excess moisture. As its body rippled, a final shake of the head dislodged a set of impressive antlers that both landed softly in the snow. 

"I’ve seen moose shed an antler before, but this was just another level,” he told the Guardian. "This is like the lottery when it comes to wildlife photography. It doesn’t get any better than this."

Antler shedding is an entirely normal part of moose life (albeit one that is rarely witnessed). The cycle begins in spring, when the antlers, covered in a fuzzy tissue known as “velvet”, begin to grow. The velvet sheds, and by fall (that's autumn for those of you outside the US), the bony paddles are in full swing – literally – as the males brandish them in jousting matches over breeding rights.

Once the mating season draws to a close, the heavy antlers no longer serve a purpose and drop off. Usually the shed antlers are only revealed when the snow begins to recede and avid collectors move in to scour the ground for any exciting finds.

The antlers can fetch a handsome price on the collector's market, but Burgoyne isn't in it for the money. "I enjoy being in the woods. It’s great exercise and it’s fun tracking the moose through the winter and looking for their sheds in the spring," he told the Guardian. "Each one you find feels like the first one. It never gets old."

Top header image: Gabe Lawrence, Flickr