Here’s a quick and easy DIY method of turning wild turkey feathers into stunning arrow fletching.
I love the looks of natural barred turkey feather fletching on arrows (who doesn’t?), but I refuse to pay $1 each for them. So this year, I set out to make my own.
In April, I got the word out to my turkey hunting buddies to save me the wings from their gobblers. Five pairs of turkey wings were soon sitting in my garage.
Then, I removed the primary and secondary flight feathers (the big ones). After doing some research, I learned that most folks use a tedious, time-consuming, and possibly toxic grinding process to make feathers into fletching. It involves splitting the feather and sanding the base down with power tools until it’s just right.
I have neither the tools nor the patience for that option. There had to be a better way.
The light turned on when I learned about stripping feathers. Sounds easy enough: just grab the tip of the feather and peel the good side off! If done correctly, you are left with a nice full-length fletch. My first time, I’d say that 75% of my stripped feathers turned out useable. The culls could still be ground into fletching if you want to try that.
Try to strip the feather away with minimal material remaining on the base. The quill has a foam-like center that you do not want to stay attached to the base of your fletching.
Below is a picture of a bad strip (L) next to a good one (R). Shoot for stripping the feathers to look like the one on the right, but you will mess up from time to time. It’s still worth it for the extreme amount of time saved.
The last step is to shape your fletching however you prefer. You can use scissors and trim to your desired size and shape. If you do, I recommend making a template first since you want them to all be consistent.
Personally, I bought two “shield” shaped feather choppers from RMS Gear, one for right-wing and one for left-wing feathers.
I take my stripped feather, place it in the chopper (being careful to line the base of the feather up with the baseline on the chopper), and whack it with a rubber mallet. Bingo! Perfect, easy, beautiful, consistent fletching. Many times I can even get two finished fletchings from each feather.
A few other notes: this method is not for perfectionists. There will always be some variation in the base, or “foot,” of your stripped fletchings. Some of the fletchings will not naturally sit perfectly straight, since the foot is flimsier than a ground one and likes to curl when at rest.
However, mounting them to your arrows will straighten and align each fletch. I have never been able to tell a difference in accuracy when shooting them side by side with factory fletchings.
This project has been a huge success. I’ve cranked out a few hundred fletchings for no cost, and in a very short amount of time. I’ve been shooting some of mine for months now; they perform admirably well and look amazing.
Try it for yourself!