QUESTION: At what age do bucks reach sexual maturity? And can a fawn go into the rut?
ANSWER: Interesting questions. Most white-tailed deer reach sexual maturity sometime around age 1 1/2. However, doe fawns occasionally become sexually mature at only six or seven months of age.
As this phenomenon is largely dependant on physiology, reaching sexual maturity at an early age is more common in areas of abundant nutrition and milder climate.
In younger deer, it also tends to occur toward the end of the rut rather than the middle or the peak.
What I find interesting is that most of the technical references I consulted agree that deer reach sexual maturity at approximately 1 1/2, with doe fawns being the occasional exception. However, none categorically deny the possibility of a buck fawn breeding.
Regardless, by the time they enter their second autumn, most bucks will be sexually mature and ready, willing and able to breed. That doesn't mean they will. They lack experience.
Furthermore, breeding rights competition could be stiff for younger bucks, depending on the population density and age structure in his area.
Older bucks tend to be more successful breeders, but yearlings have a higher likelihood of breeding in areas of high deer densities, sex ratios skewed toward does and heavily hunted populations, which tend to have a lower average age for bucks.