How to identify a legal caribou.

Identifying a Legal Caribou

Know your target! Every year a few illegal cows are shot by hunters.

Only bull caribou are legal on your hunt. Identifying a legal caribou can sometimes be difficult because both sexes have antlers.

Identifying a Legal Caribou

Most cow caribou have antlers from June through April of the following year.

Bull caribou have antlers from May through part of the winter. The oldest bulls drop their antlers first, sometimes as early as November, while young bulls (yearlings and two-year-olds) may not drop their antlers until April. Cows and young bulls may look alike when their tails are down!


  • How to identify a bull caribou.The best method to identify bulls is to determine the presence of a penis sheath. On young bulls (one- to three-year-olds) the sex organs are less apparent.
  • The white rump patch is narrower on bulls than cows.
  • Antlers are well-developed (3+ feet) in mature bulls. Young bulls typically have smaller antlers with relatively small brow tine/shovel development, and often cannot be distinguished from cows using antler development alone.


  • How to identify a cow caribou.The vaginal opening (the lower and larger of two dark oval areas) is apparent when viewed carefully from the rear.
  • The white rump patch is wider on cows than bulls.
  • The antlers of cows are smaller than those of most bulls, with the exception of many yearling bulls and a small percentage of two-year-old bulls.