FFor most of his life, Derek Burgoyne has been a treasure hunter, roaming the swamps, woods and open fields of the east Canada for his precious trophy: fallen moose antlers. And by a stroke of luck last week, he hit the jackpot.
Burgoyne was in a remote area of New Brunswick, surveying maple and birch trees with a drone for his job when he spotted dark shapes against the white landscape: three moose, lying in a clearing.
The animals began to stir as the drone circled overhead, and Burgoyne directed it to follow one of the bulls, still with a full set of antlers.
Before running away, the moose began to wobble its massive body, shaking off the snow that clung to its hair. As his torso rippled, the force of the jolt threw back his massive antlers – an “extremely rare and exciting” moment Burgoyne captured on camera.
“I’ve seen moose shed and deer antlers before, but that was just another level,” he told the Guardian. “It’s like the lottery when it comes to wildlife photography. It doesn’t get any better than that.
A towering ungulate common throughout the boreal regions of North America, moose undergo physical changes as winter sets in and food becomes scarce. To save energy, older bucks naturally shed their antlers when temperatures drop, growing a new pair in the spring.
Fallen wood strewn across the forest floor is usually spotted as the snow recedes, but images of falling are rare.
Last month, a moose in Alaska made international headlines after she shed. captured by doorbell camera.
But Burgoyne’s images are even more meaningful to the forester, who is a lifelong “cabin hunter”, searching the woods for fallen timber as part of a increasingly popular – and lucrative – hobbies in the United States and Canada. For some, the activity has become a frantic search for wood that can fetch lucky foragers thousands of dollars, but Burgoyne said he prefers the peace of the hunt.
“I like being in the woods. It’s great exercise and fun to follow the moose all winter and look for their cabins in the spring. Each one you find resembles the first. It never gets old,” he said, admitting that his collection is rapidly outgrowing the available space in his home.
Until recently, Burgoyne’s best find came from the region’s biggest bull – a 33-pointed leviathan that remains the biggest moose Burgoyne has ever seen.
But on that January day, after the moose he was watching flew away, Burgoyne rushed as fast as he could through the deep snow to retrieve the shed – and his very first pair of matching antlers.
The newest antlers have 17 points and are 45 inches in diameter. “Nice bull. Gorgeous,” he says in the video as he examines his latest find. “They don’t get any cooler than that.”