A small but potentially important archery detail for accurately firing arrows is, which way should the arrow’s fletching be pointed?
The simple answer is, the index vane, or odd colored vane (cock vane) should be pointed away from the riser facing you (as seen in the featured image). The other two will point towards the riser of the bow, nocked on the bow side of the string.
If there is no index vane, then you could look at the arrow and use the nock slot as a center line. The side with one vane would face you, while the side with two vanes will be on the bow side of the string.
Having the “open” side of the plastic vanes nock on the bow allows the arrow more clearance distance as it leaves the bow. This minimizes contact with he riser (the middle of the bow). If the fletching was pointed the other way, the one vane pointed straight toward the bow would make more contact with the bow while being fired, causing more wobble or lateral movement. Therefore, it is important to point the indicator vane away from the bow when using arrows with plastic vanes
When the arrow fletching is made of feathers, the direction of the fletching matters less, since the feathers will fold or collapse when they make contact with the arrow rest and the riser.
In some archery styles, the rate of arrows being fired may be more important than pinpoint accuracy at distance. In this case, the direction of the feathered fletching is not of high importance.
Feathered arrows don’t always have an index feather to indicate the best direction for fletching. Although it matters less which way the feathers are pointing, it could still make a small difference in how the arrow leaves the bow. If accuracy and consistency at distance is extremely important when firing feathered arrows, it is still recommended that the “open” or two feathers nock on the bow side of the string while the single feather faces away or nocks on the side of the string closest to you. This, again, will minimize the feather’s contact with the arrow rest or riser as it leaves the bow.
The fletching is there to stabilize the arrow in flight, and it does that regardless of which way it’s pointing. The emphasis on fletching’s direction is determined by the need for accuracy and the fletching material. For plastic vanes, direction is quite important. For feathers, it is less important, but can have an effect on the arrow’s release
For those getting into archery this can be an exciting time. Seeing that arrow fly and hit the target is a deep down satisfactory feeling. Part of archery’s appeal is the need for attention to detail. This can also be a source of frustration when you’re unsure of why your bow just made a strange sound, or why your arrow suddenly flew in a strange path. Finding the right adjustments and discovering those key details are part of the joy of learning the bow and arrow.