Imagine driving your truck down the road with no tires. Sounds terrible, right? The truck would be impossible to steer, unimaginably rough, and keeping it between the navigational beacons would be a nightmare. Tires are essential tools. So are fletchings.
Arrows get all the love. Bowhunters cheer things like micro-diameter, carbon that seems as strong as steel and innovative insert technologies. But what about the fletchings? Fletchings, after all, drive the arrow downrange.
I’ve been told, numerous times, that a fletch is a fletch — that size, stiffness and placement on the shaft makes zero difference. Bull butter! The truth is, manufacturers design different fletch options for different shooting scenarios. Some are built for 3-D, some for various types of target archery and some for bowhunting. Let’s dive into the bowhunting side of things.
Let’s first highlight the different fletch orientations, as the options are many. There are pros and cons to each, and you should consider your style of hunting as well as broadhead choice when making a fletch-position decision.
Most arrow manufacturers offer already-fletched shafts, and many of these shafts will arrive at your doorstep with a straight fletch. Personally, I’m not a fan. Why? First, a straight-with-the-shaft fletch will not create additional spin. Proper spin leads to arrow stabilization, which will boost accuracy downrange. Second, straight-fletched shafts, because of the lack of spin, will be more effected by the wind. Yes, you will get some added arrow speed, but I will take spot-on accuracy over speed any day of the week. Those set on a straight fletch should keep shots very close and should lean toward mechanical broadheads.
A few arrow manufacturers, and I applaud this, are fletching shafts with an offset. Simply put, an offset fletch showcases a slight turn in the fletch from the front of the fletch to the back. This fletch orientation is a favorite of many, and for good reason.
An offset fletch (right or left) creates arrow spin. This rotation better stabilizes the arrow and keeps it on a true flight path as it travels downrange. The arrow will be less effected by the wind and will steer shafts tipped with a sure-to-cut fixed-blade broadhead. The only downside to an offset is a slight loss in speed, but if your broadhead-tipped arrows are hitting their mark, I wouldn’t worry about a slight loss in fps.
While there are different degrees of helical, this fletch position is ideal for those looking for maximum arrow accuracy. Much like a bullet coming out of a gun, rotation acts like a gyroscope to quickly and efficiently stabilize the arrow and create maximum spin. Personally, this is my go-to-fletch for all my bowhunting adventures, whether shooting a fixed or mechanical head. I love the accuracy I get, and while I often have to spend a little more time tuning (rest/cable contact), I don’t mind one bit. A helical fletch can be set as a right or left helical, and as previously mentioned, the degree can be toyed with. This type of fletch will drop your fps rating a little more than the offset.
When deciding on a fletch orientation, remember that a straight fletch will hardly spin, an offset will spin a bit more and a helical will get a shaft rotating rapidly. My advice is to get a quality fletching jig like those available from Bohning and Bitzenburger and start experimenting. Building your own arrows is fun, rewarding and allows you to find the exact fletch orientation that is right for you.
Options, when it comes to fletching type, are endless. Don’t fret. The key is choosing a vane that offers solid stiffness. As far as going low- or high-profile, that’s up to you. The 411 on profile is a high-profile vane will help stabilize your broadhead-tipped arrow quickly, but will cost you, due to their surface area and general build, a few fps. A low-profile vane won’t often stabilize an arrow as quickly but will be quieter in flight and provide a little more speed.
As far as vane length, options, again, are many. Personally, I’ve been a fan of Bohning’s 2-inch, 6-grain Blazers for a longtime. They are a stiff, high-profile fletch I can depend on. Lots of bowhunters, especially those that prefer a longer low-profile fletch attach Bohning’s Heat Vane. This fletch build promises hushed flight and excellent cable and rest clearance. The fletch measures 2.5 inches, stands .41 inches tall and tips the scale at 6 grains. The material is ultra-stiff, which aids in broadhead stabilization and boost fletch life. A pair of other solid options include is AAE’s 2.1-inch Max Hunter Vanes and Max Stealth Vane.
Another viable option, of course, are feathers — like the ones from Trueflight. They're super light, and if you're looking for more spin from your arrow in flight, or still shoot without a release aid, it's tough to go wrong with the original arrow fletching.
Three or Four?
It seems to be hot debate right now, but don’t overthink it. I’ve killed throngs of animals with a right three-degree helical three-fletch arrow. The purpose of a four-fletch shaft, for many, is to boost broadhead stabilization with a low-profile fletch and improve arrow performance in the wind. Again, it all comes down to taking the time to learn to build your own arrows and discover what’s right for you. Enjoy the process!