Deer Hair Jigs
The Winter-time Secret Weapon
Old-timers and anglers in the know are not strangers to deer hair jigs. Before the advent of rubber and plastic skirts the only material used was animal hair. Squirrel, rabbit and deer hair material has long been favorites because of their availability. However; their popularity was waned drastically in the market place as rubber/plastic use increased.
Many of today’s anglers are also avid deer hunters, but most fail to realize that they are throwing away almost a years supply of deer hair with each deer hide that they discard. The deer tail has usually the longest strands of hair, however; the underside of the stomach and groin area has some very fine hair that makes great jig material.
Deer tails are easily removed from the skin and with a little work they can be preserved for many years. The first step is to remove the tail; it is easier to do this while working with the tail attached to the skin. Carefully take a sharp fillet knife and on the underneath side (the white side) slit the tail from the vent to about half way towards the tip of the tail. Then take the knife and work around the tail bone to free the skin that holds the skin on. Once this is achieved the tail can be removed from the tail bone by placing the tailbone between two fingers and pulling downward.
If you have trouble getting the tail to pull loose, then make the split further toward the tip. Once the tail is removed from the tailbone cut it free from the rest of the skin, lay the tail on a flat surface and cover liberally with salt. Any salt will work, but regular table salt is excellent and cheap. Place the salted tail in a cool dry place and it will keep for a long period of time, however; if flies can get to it before it dries or if you do not use enough salt you will find a smelly mess that I guarantee you or anyone else will not enjoy. You can just freeze the tail and use when needed, but the salted method works best and tails can be kept in zip lock bags at your jig making area.
Of course, the tails are white so if you want to have different colors they are easily changed by using dye. Choose your colors and place a dry, salted tail in the dye and then hang it a safe place to dry. Use small plastic ice cream containers and you can easily discard dye after you are through. Resalt the dyed tail so it will not spoil.
The jig making process is fairly simple with the invention of modern jig making equipment. A small vice to hold bare jigs are necessary, as well as a small table or bench to hold the equipment and supplies. A collar spreading pliers that spread the rubber collars is a real time saver. Other equipment that is needed include, glue, wire (copper, red, or black), rubber collars (variety of colors), scissors, thread, and jig heads. There are many jig heads available and range from unpainted (least expensive) or painted lifelike heads (most expensive) on the market.
To make the first jig, take the vice and place the eye in the vice with the hook pointing away from the vice. Then take a rubber collar and place in the spreader pliers and set aside, if you plan to keep the collar on jig you should color coordinate, but if you plan on removing it later you may use any color you have. Using a sharp pair of scissors take a small section of the tail and cut as close to the skin as possible, you can also trim later if needed. Of course, for bigger bulky jigs you will use more hair and for smaller streamlined jigs you will use less. Using the spreader carefully expand the collar and insert the hair, then relax the pliers and move the collar down the hair for a ? inch or so.
This makes the “skirt” or hair bundle ready to be placed on the jig, carefully move the collar over the hook point and end up at the back of the jig head. If you want to have a hair “collar’ on the jig you will need to move the collar to middle of hair bundle. Then use either thread or fine wire to wrap hair bundle firmly onto the jig. You can use colored wire to add more flash or custom look, removal of the collar is optional, but always uses super glue to finish off wrap process. The wire or thread should be wrapped 8 to 10 times. Either tie thread with a half hitch knot or twist wire together for a few rounds and then cut off excess. Wire is more durable and is easier to tie off. Other options include tinsel for flash or round rubber may also be used to imitate crawfish, which is added to the bundle before inserting through the collar.
White deer hair jigs are one wintertime weapon that bass cannot resist. The hair seems to “breathe” and this subtle action is produced at even ultra slow presentations. Use these jigs anywhere you would swim a grub or fish it vertically over schools of shad.
Brown or black deer hair jigs have taken their share of bass as well and usually a small pork chunk or strip works very well. These crawfish presentations are best when fished on rocky points or bluffs. The deer hair jig making process is a great way to spend some cold winter evenings, the anticipation of future excursions makes it a lot of fun and you also utilize some more of that deer you harvested.