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The best fletching for your arrows

By John Dudley I start out each year pondering the same thoughts as everyone else: “Which new model of bow should I choose? Should I go with the short or the long one? Which arrows should I shoot? I wonder if that new sight is as good as everyone says it is? Which broadhead is my best option this year? important because it assures that the bow and arrow rest is tuned to the arrow. This process of trial and error with fletching is to determine that the arrow-fletch combination is matched with the broadhead. With the combination of my two methods you can have a set-up that is highly tuned and deadly accurate. I can save you a lot of time by telling you that there are four fletching type options. These are the most popular choices and the most accurate in my personal tests. They are a four-inch feather, four-inch vane, two-inch blazer or the quick spin ST vanes. In recent years the two-inch blazer vane and two-inch quick spin ST vanes have made a huge jump in the market and when combined with certain arrows and broadheads compare equally with the long vane or feather. I understand that there are many other vane and feather length options, but after countless numbers of groupings I have found those listed above are the ones to home in on. I will be up front and honest – a four-inch feather is always reliable to get great results when group testing broadheads. It usually solves any problems you are having with broadhead flight in relation to proper fletch. I still try to avoid them, however, because I know there are several down sides to feathers. They are more delicate to travel with and are not good in the rain. Feathers are notably nosier than a vane and slower at longer distances. They take much longer to fletch than vanes because for this to be done properly they need to be made with slow-cure glues. Although feathers give good results, I do my test with the other vanes first to see if I can achieve the results I desire. I have had great luck with a vane combination 95 per cent of the time and have enjoyed them because of they are easier to install, better for travel, quieter, and have less down-range drag. Once you have selected your arrow from your local dealer I recommend getting a few of them fletched with these different vanes. This will allow you to test which fletching will be best for you. I recommend paying a little extra and have your shop build you a few with these different vanes so that you know you are getting the best results out of your gear. This may also be a good time to help motivate you to learn to fletch your own arrows. The fletching tools are not that expensive and there is a special satisfaction to be gained from fletching your own arrows. In my next article I will explain how to properly fletch and crest an arrow. For now, get your local dealer to make you a few arrows with these different vanes. The fletching test is really simple. You will need two arrows with the same fletching. Start by shooting one arrow tipped with a field point, then shoot the other tipped with your broadhead of choice. Make sure that both shots are good. To save on arrows and fletching I always shoot at two separate spots. The arrows should be shot at a distance at which you are comfortably accurate. The further away you are, the greater difference you will see in how the fletching steers the arrow. Extend yourself as far as you feel comfortable. I do this test at 50 metres and shoot a one-inch dot painted in the middle of a six-inch circle. My sight pin at 50 meters is the


or most of us these decisions are made at the archery shop and we allow them to put our equipment together before we head out into the field. But I think if we truly want to shoot, group and kill to the best of our ability then the thinking needs to go a little further. After selecting a bow, arrow and broadhead you need to next put some time and effort into choosing your arrow fletching. Up until about seven years ago I only shot mechanical broadheads. I was hunting mainly medium to small game animals and the mechanical heads worked extremely well for me. Virtually any bow and arrow combination shot mechanicals every bit as good as field points. Once I moved into hunting larger and more dangerous animals I went back to shooting a conventional fixedblade broadhead. I felt that this was a wiser choice after factoring in kinetic energy and shot angles. When I went back to fixedblade heads I suddenly realised how spoiled I had been with the mechanicals. They always seemed to group really well without any effort. With the conventional heads I had to go back to an old method of group shooting to determine what I would need to get them to fly as well as the mechanical. The method is nothing secretive or new; it’s just all about trying different fletching types to find out what is needed to make the broadhead fly true. Several months ago I wrote about walk-back tuning with broadheads. That technique is still

Four-inch vanes fletched helically is my vane of choice.



I disagree. The archery shops don’t close because the hunting season is T MARCH 2008 AFRICA’S BOWHUNTER 31 . Hunting season is only a small percentage of the year.. You can always count on feathers EXCEPT in rain. After shooting both arrows go down to the target to assess the results. A lousy shot usually results in an impact twice as bad as the good result. Shorter vanes have definite benefits because they are faster at longer ranges and in most cases have less drift in cross winds. The fact that it is slightly lower at this distance is not an issue.dudleyarchery. Good luck with it all. I have shot both of them in the past. longer vanes will allow more helical and more surface area. What you need to pay the most attention to is the left to right difference between the broadhead and field point. These results are ideal because they tell me I can shoot a field point. When shooting broadheads it common for it to impact slightly lower at longer distances. because these results are from good / www. Experiments like these can often become a lot of fun if you get a group of guys together in the off-season. The faster rotation typically stabilises the arrow at a faster pace than a straight fletch. What matters to me is what groups best. I shot both a four-inch vane and the twoinch quick spin ST vane. same size as the six-inch circle. wind and snow. owing to the added drag. Notice that the four-inch vanes (green circle) had a variance in vital impact of only two inches at 50 metres. which happens to most of us in the field. G5 or even a mechanical within the same two-inch radius at 50 meters. Those who use fall-away rest sometimes elect to shoot four of the short vanes to get the grouping results they demand. But other things A. Some of you may say that a margin of about five inches is still more than adequate for a hunting bow. Take a look at Photo A and notice that the arrow on the left (125-grain G5 Striker) is only about one inch lower than the field point arrow on the right spot. affect a vane’s performance besides whether the broadhead is fixed or mechanical. KIll radius. and had better results. In this test I shot a four-inch Easton Diamond vane with as much helical as my jig would allow. B. They are open all year round. Time and again I have had great luck with a four-inch vane “wrapped” or fletched with a strong helical. which the quick spin has. waiting for you to come in. including the quick spins or blazers. If the broadhead had impacted outside the circle. The bottom line is that most shooters and hunters are capable of shooting much better than they are used to. The key is to take extra steps and try the little things that can make big differences.There are countless options (right) in arrow fletching but I have narrowed it down to only four of them. I want to make it clear that I do not intend to be negative about the short vane types. They often attract the attention of shop owners and who knows. or a high profile like the blazer to create the required surface area or rotation. The results in this photo are perfect. so I can easily see that I am centreed in the target when I shoot. depending on my bow-arrow combination.ddbowhun­ ting. but the field point hit centre then I would know to try a different combination. If I decide on a mechanical blade broadhead then I tend to prefer the shorter vane options because I can get equal groupings. Obviously. Look at Photo B. The arrows with blue nocks have field points and those with white nocks have broadheads. With the short vanes they rely on either the “rutter”. The combinations I have discussed are only a few of the options available today. For more info: www. The margin of error is greatly magnified if I make a questionable shot. The quick spin ST vanes had a variance of five inches at the same distance. The helical or offset to the vane is what dictates the arrow’s rotation. Shooting can be done all year long. maybe they will even jump in and shoot with you.