I want to get into making gourd drums - does anybody know of a material I can use instead of animal hide from a drum head?
You might consider asking any drummers You know of to donate their used synthetic drum heads. Live music venues in Your area probably have a steady supply going into their trash bins, too...
A lot of drummers I've known will discard their batter heads (the ones on top of the drum) when they're only a little bit dented from drumstick blows.... others will sometimes get thrown out because of damage during transport, etc., like a small hole punch or a tear near the rim. You could cut out the usable portion and stretch it over Your homemade drums.... I've never stretched a Mylar drum head m'self, so maybe it involves some kind of heating to make it flexible? I guess it depends on the manner of Your drums' construction.
ETA: I found THIS article about homemade gourd drums, which involves the use of a single ring pipe clamp to secure the head onto the gourd. Mylar and/or imitation leather (presumably found at some fabric or upholstery stores) don't need any special treatment before being stretched and clamped in place.
I have a friend who makes his own drums and various other percussion equipment. He uses animal hide heads, but I will ask him if there are any other materials he'd recommend.