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Any archer that knows their trade knows that accuracy and consistency are the two biggest factors when it comes to firing projectiles, especially a bow.
There are many variables that can affect this, but many rookies fail to recognise that how your bow is fletched is an integral part of both consistency and accuracy.
Many archers often fail to fletch their bows properly and know the best style of arrow for their bow set up.
If you can’t trust your arrow to fly straight and accurate then you won’t get anywhere in the archery world.
Fletching is a term used in the archery world to refer to the act of installing fins or vanes onto an arrow so that it becomes more aerodynamic.
While used mainly in archery, Fletching is also used on darts, bolts, javelins and anything that is going to sail through the air.
A fletcher is someone who attached these fins and feathers to the arrow.
The term fletching can be applied to any application of a vane or feather when used as an aerodynamic stabilization device on a projectile.
Your fletching choices will always depend on your environment, climate and wind direction and force.
The etymology of the term ‘fletching’ comes from the French word ‘fléche’, meaning ‘arrow’, through the old Frankish word ‘fliukka’.
A ‘flechette’ is a steel projectile like a dart which has a vaned tail for aerodynamic stabilisation.
Fletching an arrow stabilises the projectile in flight via a torsion and rotational force as the fletch causes the arrow to spin as it leaves the bow.
Just like how a quarterback puts spin on the ball as he throws it in order to be more aerodynamic, stable, and accurate.
Semi-flexible materials such as feathers, plastic and bark are all used to fletch a bow or projectile.
Plastic fletching is made from soft plastic or vinyl and is often referred to as a ‘vane’ rather than a feather. Some call it a fin as it resembles a fin on a fish.
Vanes are much more customisable and bespoke than feathers and can come in many sizes, flexibilities and colors in comparison to a feather.
They can be easily glued onto wood, aluminum, or carbon fiber through the use of a tool called a fletching jig.
In English Archery culture the feather of a cock is used on the outside with the two smaller feathers coming from a hen.
Traditional archery culture deems that right handed archers should use a right winged feather and left handed archers should use a left handed feather.
Although, even when feathers aren’t used, one vane will still be referred to as the ‘cock’ or ‘index’ fletch while the other two are called a ‘hen’ fletch.
Fletching, and archery, have been around for years and have a history embedded in many different cultures, you can learn more about this here.
Offset fletching is used for both hunting and target shooting, three flethes are glued onto a shaft, usually the fletches are around 120 degrees apart.
The vane is straight, rather than curved.
You can check what kind of fletching an arrow has by looking down the shaft of the arrow, like a gun, and checking how curved or straight the vanes are.
While speed is reduced slightly, accuracy should be high.
Helical fletching is a more extreme version of offset fletching. The evane is no longer straight but curves in the middle.
Helical fletching involves both an offset and curved fletch. It should look like the vane is coiling around the shaft of the arrow.
A helical fletching configuration will give you significant spin and thus higher accuracy as the arrow should spin like a bullet.
As the rotational force is increased so does the spin of the arrow which means more accuracy.
However, more spin means the arrow is catching the wind a lot more which means that speed is somewhat reduced by the drag created by the helical configuration, although the arrow should be more accurate.
A helical configuration can help if you are using a low draw weight or low speed bow.
This is basically feather fletching. There can be two ways that feathers are attached, or fletched, to an arrow.
A single uncut feather is coiled around the shaft, glued in place, and potentially picked so that the feather has a bristled effect.
Or, three to six uncut feathers are fletched in a similar helical or offset manner.
The trouble with feathered arrows is that they take much more drag from the wind as the surface area is greater.
There are a few things to bear in mind when hunting with a bow.
Firstly, a hunter will usually never fire a bow more than 60 yards as it will lack the force to penetrate and kill your target, especially flesh.
Moreover, the bow will require speed and force to penetrate a target's skin or flesh.
Hunters will generally want a 3 inch vane that is offset as this will create the propulsion and force required to be fatal.
This offset configuration should also guarantee accuracy from 10 - 60 yards, which is perfect for hunting.
As hunting is always outside wind speed and direction should always be taken into account and you could change your fletch on the day depending on the climate and environment you are shooting.
For target shooting your choice of fletch can change a lot more than hunting.
Your fletching choice can depend on the weight of your arrows and bow, the distance of the target away from you, whether you are shooting downhill or uphill, against the wind or in the wind - all these variables can affect your choice of fletch.
Target shooting can also be inside or outside which can change your choice of fletch, where hunting is always outside.
Thus, wind does not always need to be a factor, especially when archers are shooting inside their fletching choice will change drastically.
Olympic level archers often have a standardised fletch for different courses and environments, which are controlled by a commission.