Contributors to this thread:
Noob starting in central coast
I'm just getting into bowhunting and I don't know where to start. I understand you have to get a certificate/course completed along with a hunting license. All of which I don't have, and need some basic guidance so I can get started on a new hobby.
Where can I go to practice? Where am I legally allowed to hunt on public land? I have searched online and cannot find any decent answers to any of this, yet I would like to start somewhere. Any suggestions for where to get trained near the central coast, and where I can practice in public land?
You have the entire coast range to hunt / practice on. This is the 'A' zone for hunting. Mostly National Forest. Don't know about any training or certificate requirements, but I'm sure some " government official " will sell you one.
Jebbe where do you live? I'm near Monterey so I hunt in Los Padres national forest. There's archery clubs around too that you should look into. I was able to get into a great bow club.
Go to the link posted. You have to take the Hunter Ed course first before you can get a hunting license. You can either take the longer course in person, or do the first 1/2 of the course online and print up your certificate after you pass the test and then book the class and take in the certificate. Some of them require you to put the cert number in when you book it.
Once you've done that, take your card in your local archery or gun shop/Basspro, Dicks, etc, where hunting licenses are sold and they will input your card into the system. You can then buy a hunting license.
Then go to this link and you can apply for deer, elk, sheep, pronghorn, etc tags. The deadline is June 2. AO (archery only) deer tags are over the counter and cover most of Southern and Western CA. Pig tags are over the counter as well. You're allowed two deer tags and both can be AO, but you can apply for better tags in the draw. You'll need an upland bird stamp if you want to hunt turkeys.
If you can't get your hunting license by June 2, you can still buy the over-the-counter tags for your summer/fall hunts. Most of the central coast is the A unit and the archery season opens in mid-July. The rifle season is in August-September and you can hunt that with a bow and an AO tag as well. The AO tag is good in all the A, B, and D units. Keep in mind the dates change yearly so you need to look at this year's regs which aren't out yet. All my links are last year's.
If you have more questions about the draw or places to hunt, shoot me a PM. Joining a local archery club in order to find a mentor, as suggested above, is great advice. I'd be more than willing to help you out, but I'm in SoCal. I'm happy to answer any questions you have though.
Here's the link to the Big Game Hunting Digest that has all the stats and tag info you'll need. The 2017 version is not out yet, but it should be soon.
Here's a link to the statewide zone map.
Here's a link to a page that has all the regulations and maps of the individual units.
I would apply for an "X" zone each year, which you will not draw for several years, but will get a point. Second choice for me is an "AO", which you will get. Then scoot on up to the Trinity Alps in the "B" zone with two "AO" tags. Hike in a mile or so and you will be amazed at the deer numbers and quality.
Get into a local archery club, and spend as much time as possible at the range and their shoots, particularly 3D shoots, which are probably the closest you can get to simulating real hunts. Bowsite is really good for tips (for example what you've received on licensing), but the real nitty gritty requires real people. Find out where the bowshops are in your area and spend time there asking questions - you should be able to get a sense of which one is a good fit.