Commonly we are asked of the best way to protect and care for real feather fletching. It is likely that sooner or later your beautiful feathers will be exposed to rain, and perhaps animal tissues.
Initially, it is important to provide as much protection as possible to help prevent the feathers from becoming wet. Our favorite is to simply to place a waterproof bag over the arrow fletching. This is possible for the arrows in the quiver but not easy for the one on the bow or those in the target. Fortunately, water-repelling agents are available through traditional archery suppliers, which can be placed directly on the feathers. Some are silicone-based sprays, others are powders. Either works quite well and provides some protection if the rain isn’t extreme.
Despite your best efforts the fletching may become soaked due to snow, heavy rain, water cleaning after use on game, etc. A soaked feather looks awful but with relative ease can be restored to a near new form. To restore a feather we suggest the following; initially clean off all dirt, fluids, etc. with warm water and allow the fletching to dry. In many cases the feathers will dry almost flat against the shaft. Once dry, hold them in a boiling water vapor (steam). It is easy to boil water in a teakettle, or pan. The idea is to create steam. Hold the feathers in the steam, 8-10 inches above the boiling water. Almost like a miracle the feathers will begin to stand and take on their original form. A little coaxing with your fingers will also help. Once the original form is restored allow the feathers to dry and retreat with a water repellent agent.
We certainly did not originate these ideas. They are mentioned here for those that may not realize how easy natural feathers are to care for. Somehow the past visions of the early archers tending to their feathers stuck in our minds. It seems that the sight of feather steaming is as traditional as the aroma of Port Orford Cedar.