Many archers believe that feathers are a gift from heaven. They might be right.
The vast majority of modern archers now choose plastic vanes over feathers, and that’s fine. Most vanes will guide your arrow beautifully. They are also a little bit less expensive than feathers. However, if more archers had all the facts regarding feathers, I think the scales might tip the other way.
While there have been great advancements in vane technology over the years, the simple fact is that man has not been able to successfully create a vane that has all of the inherent benefits of a feather.
Feathers are lighter than plastic vanes, creating an easy way to build an arrow with a greater forward of center. Feathers are also more forgiving when it comes to deflection. Contact on the arrow rest, the shelf of the bow, or those pesky little brush limbs or grass blades that might be between you and your quarry. Additionally, feathers are more durable than vanes.
Observe the photo of two different arrows, both fletched with five-inch feathers. You will notice that the feathers on the first arrow are in brand new, pristine condition. The feathers found on the second arrow are battered and torn. Despite the noticeable difference in the condition of the feathers, these arrows will in fact group together. Plastic vanes in a similar state of disrepair would fly erratically, and need to be replaced.While I prefer TrueFlight Feathers for my arrows there many options on the market.
What about rain? Won’t the feathers get ruined if they are wet? Short answer: No.
In fact, wet feathers fly surprisingly well. Most archers don’t know this, simply because they never shoot in the rain. Personally, I make it a point to shoot in the heaviest downpours that come my way. What I have found is that while arrows fletched with either vanes or feathers fly quite well in the rain, both will drop dramatically down range. If you find yourself shooting in heavy rain frequently, it might be a good idea to invest in one of the commercial powder or spray treatments that effectively water proof feathers.
Whatever your equipment choice, it is a good idea to practice with your gear in those less than desirable situations. Rain happens, so it is a good idea to know what your equipment can or cannot do, whether you are a bowhunter or tournament archer.
Do vanes have a place in archery? Sure they do. One of the great things about being an archer in this day and age is the number of choices we have in terms of equipment. A big part of archery success is confidence, and if your confidence lies with a certain style of fletching, then carry on. However, I would also encourage you to at least experiment with feathers, perhaps during the off-season, and see what kind of results you get. You just might be amazed.