In our current (November) print edition, I wrote about using deer hair in various forms for fly and lure-making. I also mentioned using unsweetened Kool-Aid as a dye for deer hair (and other materials) and promised directions via this blog. So here you go….
After curing your bucktails and patches of deer-body hair, wash thoroughly in warm water and detergent to remove, oils, grease and grit. Rinse several times in warm water to remove all the soap. Leave the hair in water or let it air dry before dying. The hair will absorb dye faster if it’s dry when you start the process.
Dissolve one or more packs of unsweetened Kool-Aid in a little warm water. Using more Kool-Aid gives greater color depth, so don’t be bashful. A Kool-Aid pack costs 20 cents at my local Wal-Mart, so price is really no obstacle.
Put the liquid dye in a microwave-safe container, add the hair and enough warm water to cover. Zap it in the microwave for a couple of minutes, and then let it sit. The water should be hot, but not simmering or boiling. You don’t want to actually “cook” the hair and hide. (You can do this on a stovetop, also, but I found the microwave much easier.)
After a while, turn and wiggle the hair in the dye bath to distribute fresh dye among the fibers. Heat again. Let it sit some more.
When it looks as if you’ve achieved the desired color, rinse the hair in clear warm water to check. What you see is what you get. If the color looks good, rinse completely and let the hair air dry. If more color seems needed, heat the dye bath again and leave the hair in it longer.
That’s basically it. Note these cautions. Wear rubber gloves, or you’ll be wearing purple (or whatever color) hands for a while. And remember, you’re using a dye. Spilling it makes a hell of a mess, so be careful. Finally, try using just a small piece of scrap hair first to get the hang of it.
Having said all that, I’ll also point out that you can buy a premium dyed bucktail for $5 to $7, which is what I most often do. On the other hand, my most recent experiment gave me a gorgeous pale-lavender dye-job on a natural-white bucktail that will be just perfect for landlocked-salmon streamers. It’s a color that’s almost impossible to find commercially, one that I obtained with grape Kool-Aid….