Orville Vaaler started Gateway Feathers in 1956 primarily as a “craft feather” operation. “We made feather dusters and supplied soft feathers for craft projects. Archery hadn’t really evolved into a money-making business at that time,” recalled Todd Vaaler, director of operations at Arizona-based Gateway Feathers.
Around 1960, Orville’s son, Richard, returned home from the Navy and joined the family business. Richard was an avid archer and approached his father about the prospect of expanding and diversifying the business. “Once we decided to get into archery, we purchased a couple of smaller archery businesses, moved some equipment in and became a ‘one-stop shop’ for feathers,” Todd related.
The feathers were pulled from the turkeys at different slaughtering houses and then washed, dyed and processed for both the craft and archery industries. “As time went on, archery grew and grew exponentially through the ’70s and ’80s. So it was really from that love of archery that my father [Richard] grew the company into what it is today,” said Todd.
The business remained in Wisconsin until the mid-’90s, when competition for labor and increasing pressure from plastic vanes caused Gateway to seek out an area that would be more “wage-friendly.” Half of the company moved operation in 1994, with the remainder closing up shop and following in 1998. Gateway Feathers has been an industry leader in innovation—as far as feathers go—with unique colors and exclusive shapes and sizes. “Our most innovative feather has to be the two-inch Razor. The Razor is an engineered feather, the first modern feather for modern bowhunters,” Todd boasted.
Bows are built to be more accurate shooting arrows with tighter tolerances and broadheads with better profiles. In large part, this has allowed the changes in fletching technology and produced products such as the Bohning Blazer vane and Razor feather. “The Razor feather is not just a normal cut. It was engineered with what we call ‘Whisper-Quiet Technology’ to fly downrange with a broadhead and be quieter than a plastic vane,” Todd stated.
“Our biggest challenge has been to overcome the preconceived notion so many archers bring to the table that feathers are too expensive, too fragile, don’t work in the rain—when they actually do—with a simple application of our waterproofing powder,” Todd explained. “Gateway [also] has some exciting new things in the works that better address archers’ concerns of the past, with increased durability and waterproofness. We are very excited about the future and the things we are doing down here.”
(520) 805-0863; www.gatewayfeathers.com