Feathers and arrows go together like bull’s-eyes and happiness. Feathers have stabilized flying arrows for thousands of years. Early man discovered that attaching feathers to the arrow’s rear helped them fly straight and true. Even today, feathers remain the choice of many top pros, bowhunters and recreational archers.
A great example of ancient archery equipment came from “Otzi the Iceman.” Otzi was found preserved in ice in 1991 in northern Italy’s Alps. Carbon dating showed Otzi had been frozen 5,300 years. Archaeologists also found his bow, quiver and arrows with him.
Two of his 14 arrows had stone points and feather fletchings, still attached after 5,300 years. Otzi’s arrows were made from shoots of viburnum lantana, a treelike shrub, and fletched with feathers from a large bird. Otzi glued feathers to the wooden shafts with sap, and secured them further with cord from plant fibers. Archers today continue to use and process feathers for fletching in similar ways.
Even though modern archers have more options for fletching, many of them still think nothing compares to natural feathers. Feathers are so supple and flexible that they press flat when contacting the bow’s riser or arrow shelf, which does not disrupt the arrow’s flight. These feathers, which usually come from turkeys, also make arrows spin because of their natural curve. The spin quickly stabilizes arrows in flight, which enhances accuracy.
Just about any feathers work as fletching, but the best feather fletchings come from turkey wings. Turkey feathers feature a unique blend of rigid durability and suppleness. Manufacturers process turkey feathers by sorting them into right- and left-wing groups. The two wings have mirror opposite curvatures, which spin arrows in different directions.
Archers should choose all right-wing or all left-wing feathers because they cannot be combined on the same arrow. After the feathers are sorted by wing, they’re dyed in vibrant colors, unique patterns and even custom print designs. And after they’re dyed, they’re spilt lengthwise and cut to shape. Feather manufacturers produce a variety of shapes that look great and deliver the great performance archers desire.
Archery is an ancient sport with a rich history. When you pick up a bow, you’re participating in a tradition that enabled mankind’s survival and advancement. To check out these feather beauties in person and get a set for yourself, visit your local archery shop.