Maine sportsmen are lending Bambi a helping hand, and the Brewer-based Penobscot County Conser-vation Association has joined the “hunt.”

Despite the “easy” winter of 2011-12, the white-tail deer population has precipitously declined in central, eastern, and northern Maine — to the point, in fact, that fewer hunters now pursue the state’s most popu-lar big-game animal. To reverse this trend, representatives from several sporting groups gathered at the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine offices in Augusta on Saturday, Jan. 21 to discuss the fledgling Maine Deer Management Network.

Among the organizations represented that day were:

• The Penobscot County Conservation Association;

• The Durham Rod and Gun Club;

• The Norway-Paris Fish and Game Club;

• The Maine Professional Guides Association;

• The Pleasant River Fish and Game Club;

• The Presque Isle Fish and Game Club.

Among the people attending was Anthony “Tony” Richard, the PCCA president. “We think it’s a good idea,” he said during an April interview. The Maine Deer Management Network will “bring together vari-ous groups to bring back our deer herd.”

The network will focus on habitat management, hunting, and predation management, with the last ob-jective primarily targeting coyotes. Supporters envision the Maine Deer Management Network as providing hunters with information about programs related to deer-herd restoration.

“I see it as providing a network of communications throughout the state, getting everybody moving in the same direction,” Richard said.

Of the PCCA’s 300-odd members, “the majority of them are hunters,” he said. “They realize the impor-tance of bringing that deer herd back, of being able to get out and enjoy that aspect of the Maine outdoors. I enjoy watching deer.”

For PCCA members, “a big topic of discussion” among them “has been how many deer they have seen, how healthy do they look,” Richard said.

Discussion has included comparisons to current and past deer sightings. “Most members hunt within a 50-mile radius of this area, I would say,” he commented, but members also hunt “further west … or Down East.

“They are noticing fewer deer, particularly around Millinocket north,” he said. “It has to be the two or three severe winters Maine saw recently that really decimated the deer herd, especially in northern Maine.

“Those winters were absolutely devastating” to deer, with “up to one-third” of the Maine deer herd lost each winter in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010, Richard said. “2010-11 was not quite as severe.”

Official estimates peg current deer numbers at 125,000 animals, “a two-thirds’ reduction of the deer herd here in Maine since the winter of 2007-08,” he said.

Among the other factors have adversely impacted the deer herd, Richard cited “the loss of wintering habitat and a reduction in farm land. And, of course, the other big reason for the decline is directly propor-tional to the increase in coyotes in Maine.

“All of these factors have combined to negatively impact Maine’s deer herd,” he said. “We have got to all work together to increase the herd.”

Several months ago, the PCCA directors voted to support the Maine Deer Management Network. “The PCCA feels that the initiative can bring many of the state’s organizations and groups together for the first time in an effort to improve not only deer management, but to increase the deer herd in Maine,” Richard said.

“All of us working together will be able to accomplish much more than each club or organization can working independently,” he said.

“Initially, I see the PCCA’s role as being able to contribute ideas to the initiative and to get information out to our members and community at large,” Richard said.