Help! My Fletching Are Falling Off!

The first dozen arrows I owned seemed indestructible. My groups hardly touched, and even when I made the rookie mistake of pulling the arrow by its fletchings, my vanes held on. But as my arrow groupings tightened and I learned how to properly handle arrows, vanes began coming lose. And once my quiver was nearing empty after losing a few arrows on a 3D shoot, it was time for a new set.

I purchased the exact same arrows, so I was surprised when the vanes started falling off after only a few shots. Maybe it was something I was doing wrong, however, the vanes on my old arrows sat tight. I brought my bow and arrows into the local archery shop. The bow technician said the glue didn’t bond the fletchings properly to the shaft.

Vanes and feathers should last a long time but like any equipment, they eventually reveal wear and tear. And in some cases, like with my arrows, something else goes wrong.  If your vanes or feathers are falling off, something is up. Here’s how to troubleshoot the problem.

Fletching Contact

Fletching can tear if the arrows hit against each other on the target. Photo Credit: ATA

Most archers don’t shoot a single arrow at a target, especially because grouping arrows is an important part of practice. How your arrows group gives you insight into your abilities and equipment. While archers are always aiming for a tight group, this comes at the cost of your vanes/feathers. When fletchings come in contact with each other they eventually come loose. This also occurs when you miss a target and hit brush, grass and branches.

A damaged fletching is a subtle sound. If you hear a fluttering noise when you shoot, inspect each vane/feather; you will likely notice one end has separated from the shaft. This causes drag and erratic flight. A fluttering noise can also indicate a tear in the vane. If you use feathers, loose sections will cause poor arrow flight.

If you notice any of those issues, set the arrow aside and take a quick trip to your local archery shop where the pros will fix you up in no time.

Fletchings Gone Wrong

Strong super-glue holds attach the fletching to the arrow’s shaft. Over time, the bond weakens, but in some cases it happens too early. Shooting in extreme heat conditions can cause the bond to break and the fletchings to fall off. Hitting something hard with the arrow can knock the fletchings loose. Bad glue or poorly bonded fletching can be to blame if you suddenly notice your fletchings falling off.

The Powder Test

If fletchings are hitting your equipment, you’ll get poor arrow flight and loose fletchings. Improper nock rotation, an improperly tuned bow and bad drop away rest timing will all cause contact. If you suspect that’s the problem, try “The Powder Test.”

Grab some baby powder, aerosol foot spray, or even a tube of lipstick. Powder the arrow from the middle of the shaft to the nock and cover each individual fletching, as well as the rest. Carefully nock an arrow without disturbing the powder. Draw the arrow and release into the target.

Inspect the arrow for any changes in the powder. With a properly tuned setup, you should not notice any change in the powder. If powder is missing on the low side of the arrow, you need to adjust the nock point. If powder is missing on the side, you will need to adjust your center shot. Also check to see if your nock is fitting too tightly on your string, as this causes erratic arrow flight.

Inspect your rest for changes in the powder. If the rest is missing powder, it indicates a feather is hitting the rest and you need to rotate the nock. Repeat the process and make adjustments until the arrow and the powder remains undisturbed after each shot.

If you can’t make the fix yourself, visit your local archery shop. Explain the results of the powder test, and they’ll help find a solution.

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