Having been a passionate deer hunter for the best part of my life, It became a natural progression for me to embrace the material these animals have provided me with over the years and learn everything I could about it and its uses within fly tying.
Although the fly tyres world is filled with a magnitude of materials both natural and synthetic, there is probably only hackle that can lend itself to so many applications and techniques as deer hair can. Tails, wings, bodies, heads, legs, posts even hackles and parachutes. It can be used to create the smallest delicate dries and dyed, spun, packed and sculpted with a blade and sand paper to make the largest predator alien hair bugs. All this can all be achieved with only deer hair!
The deer mask, is the entire face and ear area of various species of deer (most commonly the white tail) As with a hares mask, which we are all familiar with, the deer mask provides us with a wide range of natural colours from light tan to speckled brown to light dun and the rest. It also furnishes us with a huge amount of hair textures from short stiff ultra fine to coarse, all varying lengths for flies from a size 6 down to the tiniest patterns. For the caddis fly specialist a deer mask is a must. Removing the mask from a deer, if done correctly, is a precise and time consuming task, so they only seem to be available every now and then from a relatively few retailers. If you know a deer hunter its well worth asking if they can obtain the head from a late season doe, these are normally discarded, if its a buck with antlers, they make it even more difficult to skin.
In a few days, I will be publishing a video tutorial on how to skin and prepare a roe deer mask and show the different hair types that are available from this wonderful material.