Most commonly three-fletch arrows get more used in archery, but are they the best solution? Having shot both three-fletch and four-fletch arrows, I feel most equipped to answer this from my own experience.
Are 3 or 4 fletch arrows better? The overwhelming majority of archers prefer three-fletch arrows because they don’t see a big performance difference between three-fletch and four-fletch arrows. Four-fletch arrows shoot slower and make more noise when shot, but they do help the arrow to stabilize faster with broadheads.
If you’d like to learn about the differences between the two arrows, keep reading because we will take you in-depth on the subject.
Three-Fletch Arrows: Getting the Job Done
Having three-fletch arrows will often do the trick, and many people don’t see the need for a four-fletch arrow, which slows down the arrow by two to three fps. That may not look like much, but the other issue with four-fletch arrows comes from extra noise. In particular, where speed matters, you might have a deer on the move, and a couple of extra fps ensures the kill.
When hunting, you want to take the target game by surprise as much as possible and have as much speed as possible. For many archers, four-fletch arrows simply add extra and unnecessary fletching to the arrow.
In comparison with the four-fletch arrow, you only see a marginal difference in the arrow’s stability. It doesn’t improve its flight enough to warrant it. Despite having more surface area and drag, the nominal improvement with other disadvantages makes it less worthwhile. Some archers may beg to differ, but I don’t see a big benefit to four-fletch arrows.
Four-Fletch Arrow: A Distinct Advantage
Some bowhunters choose four-fletch arrows for hunting because of how they can find the arrows more easily after taking the shot and passing it through the animal. The extra color on the arrow makes it easier to spot.
Let’s say that you practice archery with a couple of friends and have a tournament. The one advantage of four-fletch arrows comes from the fact that fewer people shoot them. You can distinguish your arrows right from the get-go in most cases.
An estimated 20 percent of archers prefer four-fletch arrows in comparison to 80 percent on three-fletch arrows.
Four-Fletch Arrows: No Wrong Way to Shoot
You can also nock your arrows more easily than you could with a three-fletch arrow because you don’t have a wrong way to do it.
In a hunting scenario, you want to have the arrow on the string as quickly as possible to take the shot. Every hunter knows how fast opportune moments pass. You don’t have to glance down in the middle of a crucial shot to make sure you have it on right. I had a buddy who lost a six-point buck because he didn’t move quickly enough in this way.
Three-Fletch vs Four-Fletch Arrows: Extra Time Fletching
Some archers will fletch their arrows, especially when they want something specific. You can also save money because it costs around $52 to have your arrows fletched. Three-fletch arrows in these scenarios will cost less, and if you do it yourself, you will prefer the three-fletch arrows because of the unnecessary nature and extra work of four-fletch.
With a four-fletch arrow, it simply takes longer to fletch the arrow. You spend more time fletching. It only takes around 30 minutes once you get the hang of it, but considering how you might have a dozen arrows, that can quickly add up in time with four-fletch arrows adding an extra feather on each one.
Different Scenarios for Each One
In most cases, archers prefer the three-fletch arrow because it makes more sense. You do have a few cases where four-fletch arrows offer you a better choice. For example, a short and low-profile four-fletch arrow reduces the crosswind out in the field that hurts accuracy. Some hunters might keep a four-fletch arrow on hand for very windy conditions.
Four-fletch arrows don’t do as well with long-distance shots because of the extra drag on them.
With whisker biscuits and drop-away rests, it can prove problematic in some scenarios with three-fletch arrows because you have to put it on correctly to keep from fletching contact. In a hunting scenario, a couple of extra seconds can wind up costing you the buck.
Three-Fletch Arrows vs Four-Fletch Arrows: Broadheads
Four-fletch arrows have grown in favor with hunters because of how they believe that it improves accuracy, especially when shooting broadheads. The theory behind the stability is that this causes the arrow to spin faster and stabilize with helical fletching.
Bowhunters looking to shoot deer at 40 yards or less probably don’t need the four-fletch arrow because it won’t improve the accuracy that much with the broadhead. In most cases, you won’t need a four-fletch arrow for broadheads under 40 yards. However, the four-fletch arrows can help to steer a bigger broadhead more easily even at closer distances.
With that said, taking 100-yard shots or extremely long-distance shots on a deer from a bow would be foolish. You shouldn’t do it because it’s unethical. It’s like taking a headshot on a deer, which I wrote about here. Many hunters have even reported this as being traumatic even for themselves.
It may differ slightly, but the lack of ethics are the same. If a deer sits out at 100 yards, I’d probably have to do some stalking to catch him before I’d take the shot.
Unless you’re taking a 100-yard shot in a competitive archery tournament with regular, inanimate targets, you don’t have many reasons to take this shot. Never do it on a live animal.
With a gun, it’s a different scenario because the aim doesn’t falter or depend on your shot, but with a bow, it’s a bit like shooting hoops from half-court. The issue here is how you’re taking that shot on a living creature, and you can’t determine where you will hit it even if you do. In fact, I hope that you don’t hit it.
More than likely, you will wind up injuring the animal, rather than killing it. You may also be condemning the deer to a long and painful death over weeks or months. That isn’t good sportsmanship, and as hunters, we need to be good stewards of the land. Follow good hunting practices.
When we take a shot, it kills the deer. We’re not out to cause long-term suffering and cruelty to animals. That’s not what hunting is about.
The joy of this sport is not necessarily in the getting of the animal. It is the gravy on top. As my brother once explained to me, it’s about being out in nature and enjoying what God created.
The more hunters who aren’t ethical, the more of a bad name we receive.
We don’t want people condemning hunters as unethical because it can lead to government policies that go against hunting, despite us being good for the environment.
The ethics in hunting exist to keep the sport from degrading into cruelty and an inhumane practice. I will support the hunter who practices good sportsmanship to the end, but I have zero tolerance for foolish hunters. Here’s an article on good hunting ethics and how to follow them.
Three-Fletch Arrows Look Better?
Beware because this benefit may be a personal opinion, but I think the three-fletch arrows look better than the four-fletch arrows. When I think of an arrow, I think of a three-fletch arrow because that is what was traditionally used.
You did have cultures like the English that sometimes used the four-fletch arrow, but this was very scarcely used because it didn’t improve the shots that much, and especially back in those days, it was all about effectiveness. Four-fletch arrows don’t make a huge difference in my opinion.
Experiment by Yourself to See Which is Better
I’ve given you some of the reasons why I think what I think about the four-fletch and three-fletch arrows, but I would recommend that you experiment with it on your own. Part of the fun in archery comes from playing with the recipe. See which one you would prefer. No harm done whichever one you prefer.
You don’t have a right or wrong answer. However, the four-fletch arrows have such a negligible advantage that they don’t make much sense to use in my opinion. While you could use them, the advantages will be small enough to almost make it seem unnecessary. That’s what I found in my own experience, but I would challenge you to try for yourself.
Why Three-Fletch Arrows are More Common
Four-fletch arrows aren’t necessarily bad, but I would largely call the extra fletching unnecessary. A three-fletch arrow will usually give you plenty of stability on your shots and enough accuracy. Three-fletch arrows have been the go-to arrow for thousands of years because it works.
Having a three-fletch arrow will also ensure that it has plenty of drag and spin during the shot. Three-fletch arrows may have more issues with fishtailing, but it’s not enough of an issue to make a huge difference.
I wrote about why arrows hit the target from an angle if you’re interested in learning more about that here. Four-fletch arrows could add some stability to prevent fishtailing, but it’s not enough to make a big difference.
Pros and Cons of Three-Fletch Arrows
We would like to highlight the pros and cons of three-fletch arrows so that you can decide for yourself. Again, we would also recommend experimenting with four-fletch arrows to see if you like them.
- Less drag and greater fps
- Looks more aesthetically pleasing
- Puts a spin on the arrow
- Costs less
- Nothing unnecessary about it
- Not as good for broadheads
- Doesn’t stabilize as quickly
- Must put it on right for shooting
Pros and Cons of Four-Fletch Arrows
- Stabilizes faster during the shot
- Good for steering larger broadheads
- Drifts less with the wind
- Less likely to fishtail
- Better for long-distance shots
- Nominal difference with more effort
- Costs more
- Loss of two to three fps
- Drags on the arrow
3 Fletch vs 4 Fletch for Hunting
You don’t have a huge advantage to going with four-fletch arrows for hunting because it offers such little benefit. The one time where four-fletch arrows will do better than three-fletch comes from when you use a larger broadhead because this helps to steer the arrow better.
Another reason that some bow hunters choose a four-fletch arrow comes from how they can find the arrow better after the shot. In most cases with hunting, a three-fletch arrow will do the trick, however, unless you’re scared to lose your arrows.
Hunting with a whisker biscuit, you might choose four fletches because of how you can put the arrow on quickly without worrying about how you put it on. You can take the shot as quickly as possible. With any form of hunting, a quick moment for the right shot may prove all that you get in hunting.
The best fletching for hunting arrows will depend on the hunter, and you should experiment with both to see which one you like the best. If you don’t have the money for both, however, we would advise going with the conventional three-fletch arrow because it will cost less, and most people prefer three-fletch arrows.
How Many Fletchings Should There Be on an Arrow?
The most common number of fletchings on an arrow will be three. Most arrows will come with either three-fletch or four-fletchings. You do have one exception in that bowfishing arrows have no fletching at all on them to penetrate the water better, but they can only shoot 10 to 20 yards. The fletching helps to steer the arrow, and an arrow without fletching is like a car without a steering wheel.
Overall, we would say that the three-fletch arrow comes out superior because of how it eliminates the unnecessary. You only see a very nominal difference between the three-fletch and the four-fletch arrows in most cases. We outlined some of the scenarios where you might want a four-fletch arrow, but most people prefer the three-fletch arrows for a reason. It also explains why this is the main arrow sold in stores.