Arrows Series – Part 6: Fletching and Indexing

Now that you have cut your arrows you need to fletch them. Fletchings are found at the back of the arrow, traditionally made from bird feathers and are used to stabilize the arrow by creating a small amount of drag.

Wikipedia: Fletching (also known as a flight) is the aerodynamic stabilization of arrows or darts with materials such as feathers, each piece of which is referred to as a fletch. The word is related to the French word “fleche”, meaning “arrow,” via Old French; the ultimate root is Frankish fliukka. A fletcher is a maker of arrows.

Nowadays, there are two types of fletchings, real or synthetic feathers and plastic vanes. Some target archers have them attached to the arrow with a slight twist to increase arrow spin because a spinning projectile is more stable and helps reduce the effects of Archer’s Paradox (We will discuss Archer’s Paradox in more detail in the Part 7 of the series).

The most conventional style of indexing is a three-feather fletching where feathers or vanes are mounted to the arrow, evenly distributed around the spine of the arrow. One feather, called the “cock”, is set at a right angle to the string and pointed at the archer and the other two fletchings on the riser side are angled up and down away from the bow. This is done so the fletchings/vanes will not contact the bow when the arrow is shot. For compound archers the cock feather’s indexing depends on the type of arrow rest.

Quick Tip: Choose a different colour for the “cock” feather. It is great reminder to always point it towards you and away from the riser for proper nocking of the arrow.

Fletching an arrow is a time consuming and tedious task to do accurately by hand. In modern times, most people use a fletching jig, especially to fletch arrows with a slight twist. Check out my earlier blog about fletching jigs.

It is important to understand that once an arrow is released it starts to bend and if the arrow is not correctly indexed the feathers or vanes will make contact with the riser. This will cause the arrow to react differently than expected, distort your feathers and possibly cause damage to you or your equipment.

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Drying Feathers

Now that we are in the outdoor season there is an opportunity to shoot in all kinds of weather. Weather itself effects the way we shoot, and you can read my earlier blog about different weather conditions and their effects on shooting. As competitive archers, we love our equipment. We have invested time, money, and countless hours in finding the perfect setup for us. So,once the tournament is complete we need to care for our equipment. We need to have our equipment in perfect condition for the next tournament.

Perfect shooting conditions rarely require additional maintenance, however not all tournaments are shot in ideal conditions and rain has the potential to do the most damage if not dealt with immediately since metal rusts, wood warps and fletching matte.

Once out of the weather, take the time to properly and thoroughly dry all your equipment. Using a clean dry cloth, wipe down your limbs, riser and stabilizer. Carefully dry your sight making sure not to lose your sight marks or damage your scope. If you use a spotting scope or binoculars make sure no water has damaged or fogged up the lens.

Finally, carefully dry your arrows by wiping the shafts dry. Plastic Vanes can be dried using a clean dry cloth however feather fletchings will need to be air dried so that are not squished. If your fletchings, plastic or feather, are matted, you need to open them up again and allow them to air dry by following the following guide:

How to dry your feathers

You will need: your arrows, a pot, water, and an oven/stove

  • Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil
  • Hold each arrow’s fletching over the steam
  • Patiently wait for the fletching to start to open up. Remember the fletchings will open the rest of the way as they dry.
  • Place the arrow in a clean dry spot with the points facing down until dry.
  • Repeat for all your arrows and turn off the stove.

Taking the time after a rainy tournament to attend to your equipment, can save you money and grief.

Getting more Distance

Summer is here and with it the outdoor archery season. One of the biggest differences between indoor and outdoor archery, other than weather, is distance to the target.

Indoors everyone typically shoots at 18M however outdoors, depending on your age, division and category, you can shoot anywhere from 15M (Peewee) to 90M (Senior Male). As young archers get older and move up in division so do the distances they are asked to shoot. For instance, a pre-cub only needs to shoot maximum 30M in a target competition, however as a cub they need to shoot 50M. I remember trying to shoot Junior/Senior distances as a Cadet; 70 meters was a challenge. My sight was at the bottom and I was still not getting the distance I needed.

If you are struggling with a new distance you can make some equipment changes that can help such as ….

  • Heavier Limbs

Increasing draw weight will give you more force and therefore greater distance.

  • Move the entire sight down

Some sights, like the Cartel Mighty sight, you can move the entire T-bar lower. This allows you to lower the scope. Just remember to keep it out of the arrows flight.

  • Finger tab with a Shelf

Some finger tabs, like the Cartel Midas Finger Tab, have a shelf. If you adjust the shelf to be fully extended, you can lower your anchor point.

  • Spin vanes

For target archers you use synthetic feather fletchings, switching to plastic spin-wing vanes manufactured by Range-O-Matic can help a lot. Spin-wing vanes are lighter, offer less drag and are more forgiving as they help the arrows get into a tighter spin earlier.

Some times equipment changes are not an option because of cost, physical limitations and some times they only get you part way. Here are a couple of simple tricks that may help you reach those last couple of meters.

  • Wear a Mouth-Guard

Using a mouth-guard (or a piece Lego between your teeth) keeps your jaw open lowering your anchor point.

  • Mount your Sight Backwards

Mounting your sight backwards inside your bow, moves your sight marks lower and therefore changes the trajectory.

  • Use your Limbs as a Sight

In clout, a long distance (100M to 200M) sport you use your bottom limb as the sight. This can work for target archery as well. Pick a spot near the top of your lower limb to aim with for your possible distance.

If you have any tricks or tips to help gain more distance, I encourage you to share them.