The pheasant launched from its hiding spot twenty feet to my left. As it rose, it flew at a forty-five degree angle towards the right, I swung with him and drew the bow. In the split second it took to reach anchor, the bird had distanced itself by 15 yards.
Letting the string slip, the fourth arrow of the day was on its way. The missile whirred towards the fleeing quarry and I was once again filled with hope. It looked like this was going to be the one. YES! The arrow struck just above the back leg, transfixing the bronze rooster. The Zwickey Scorpio did its job, stopping the arrow, with about nine inches of shaft sticking out of the breast on the opposite side of the bird. The pheasant glided about 50 yards and crashed to earth. The whoops of joy among the small group of hunters could have been heard for miles.
After a total of nearly twenty arrows we had finally knocked a bird out of the sky. Harvesting this pheasant was the exciting payoff of many hours of shooting arial targets with my favorite type of arrow, the flu-flu.
Why do I like flu-flu's so much? They are just plain fun. That's why. What makes them so much fun? Well, the answer is quite simple. With their unique fletchings, and natural braking ability, they simply look like a good time waiting to happen and lend themselves to some exciting ways to shoot. Their large fletchings catch the air and quickly slow the arrow's velocity, which dramatically reduces the distance the arrow flies. Reduced flight is a decided benefit when it comes time to retrieve your arrows after shooting them at a game bird scooting across the sky. These benefits are useful in other hunting situations too, such as squirrels in treetops.
Flu-flu's can be a blast while target shooting too. On our indoor league, flu-flu's are used to try and obscure the scoring rings on our opponent's target. Since they are offered up as a kind of sacrificial lamb in these leagues, I have spent a fair amount of time building replacements!
There are many ways to make flu-flu arrows, but these are the types I have made, and the techniques used to make them. There are a couple of basic styles, and multitudes of variations on those styles.
The two basic designs are the twisted, or spiral wrapped fletch, and uncut feathers fletched in a normal manner. If you fletch your own arrows you probably already have the tools required for making most flu-flu's. With minimal additional cost you can add a few items that will enable you to make any type of flu-flu you wish.
Referencing the picture from top to bottom there are five different types of flu-flu arrows shown. The top arrow is a six fletch. It has straight fletched feathers, 4 - 4 ½" long and left untrimmed.
The second arrow is a hybrid that my friends and I have nicknamed "airbrakes." It is a combination of three regular fletchings and a feather wrapped in a tight spiral behind them.
The third arrow is a true spiral and the most well-known flu flu type.
The fourth is a six fletch straight made with spliced feather pieces. Because the feathers differ somewhat it creates an offset and makes a unique looking arrow.
The last arrow is another six fletch only this time a helical jig was used.The six fletch varieties are the easiest to build. Cut some pieces of full-length feathers to your desired length. You can use one piece four to five inches long, or multiple pieces to get your desired length. (one and two inch pieces left over from cutting your full length feathers are perfect for this) Fletch as you would any arrow. Then flip the arrow over in the nock receiver. This will allow the jig to fletch in the gaps between the previously fletched feathers. You will end up with six 60-degree fletchings.
To make the hybrid, place a drop of glue to the tip of a full-length feather. Lay the feather perpendicular to the shaft with the "cup" of the feather facing the arrow's tip end with just the glued tip on the shaft. Clamp it and let it dry. Once it is dry, smear glue on the shaft about 3/8" - 1/2" above the feather towards the nock end. Wrap the feather towards the nock keeping the quill edges touching until you run out of feather. Clamp it and let it dry. Put the arrow in your jig and add the three regular fletches. This part is tricky because the jig and feathers kind of fight each other. One trick is to use fletching tape and just use the jig as a guide and stick the feathers with a combination of jig and freehand.
The spiral types are the toughest to make. First you must determine which way to wrap the feather. Hold the tip of the feather and twist it around the shaft. One direction the feather will flare up almost straight from the shaft (see the illustration) Wrapped in the other direction, the feather will have a decided lean and kind of lay towards the shaft. You want the direction that causes the feather to stand straight up. Once that is done, try and estimate where the feather should end. You will start the spiral at this point "mid shaft" and twist it on towards the nock end. It is a good idea to do a practice wrap before you add any glue. This will enable you to gauge where to start, and how far to space, the twists. You will also get the added benefit of softening the quill so it will be more manageable and much easier to glue. Place some glue on the tip of the feather and clamp it at a slight angle towards the nock end. Once the glue has been allowed to dry, add glue to the whole feather and twist it up towards the nock. Try to keep the spacing about 3/8". The bigger the gap, the harder it is to keep the feather on the shaft. When you get to the end of the feather, clamp it in place. Start the second feather at the tail end of the first. The joint is kind of tricky, but it's just an experience thing. Trim off any excess quill, and points sticking out. A comb, or hair brush, can be used to separate the vanes for a neat and functional appearance.
There is one more type I have recently learned about that looks really neat, but I do not have any flight experience with it yet. I would describe this one as "extreme" helical. It is a three, or possibly six, fletch style. Start with three fletch until you get the hang of it. The first step is to place your arrow shaft in your flecthing jig and draw a pencil line on the shaft at three fletch spacing. It may help to number the lines. Now add glue to the only back ¼" of the feather. Using your jig, glue the feather ends onto the shaft. Using lines 1, 2, and 3, in normal 120 degree spacing. When dry, add glue to the feather and slightly twist it around the shaft so that the tip of the feather is on the next line over on the shaft in the direction your feather naturally leans. Use one of the clamps described later to hold the tip in place. This method creates a feather that is glued on line 1 at the back, twisted between lines 1 and 2, and glued at the tip to line 2. This will give the feather an "extreme" helical.
Here are few tips I have gathered along the way which you may find helpful. Use clothespins or the black spring steel paper binder clamps with the chrome folding legs to hold your feathers on the shaft while working with spiral fletching. With wood arrows you can use straight pins as clamps.
Trim off any excess quill that sticks out and put a spot of glue on it. Your bow hand will thank you later! When preparing feathers for the spiral types remove as much of the quill as possible, or strip your feathers prior to making the arrows. The feathers will bend much easier this way. If you plan to clamp a feather with a clothespin, or the paper clamp, trim some feather off the quill, about 1/8 inch, so there is a flat space for the clamp to grip. This can be trimmed off after the arrow is completed.
The spiral types reduce distance of flight the best. Lighter tips will help reduce flight also. I've gone as light as 35 grains using only a broadhead adapter. With aluminum shafts spine does not appear to be an issue. Most archers can use anything from 1916 on up in 60 to 70# bows with no ill effects. The stabilizing effects of the large feathers appear to take care of what would normally be weak or overspined arrows.
With what you have been shown here you no longer have any excuse not to go out and have a great time winging arrows at Frisbees, or whatever you and your friends decide to try. Just remember to get a good open area, be safe, and have fun.