Twenty-three teams of hunters head into the Whanganui bush searching for pigs and deer this weekend.

Among them is television presenter and former Maori All Black Matua Parkinson, who has links to the area as his mother is an Osborne.

They are taking part in this year's Whanganui River Hunting & Wild Food Festival, and the hunting teams have each been assigned a block of land.

Event organiser Chris Kumeroa sent them off at noon yesterday after a health and safety briefing.

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"Just be safe. Go out together, and come back together," he said.

The event began with a powhiri and snack at Parikino Marae, 24km from Whanganui on the River Rd, and the hunters will return with their prey tomorrow, ready for weigh-in at noon and prizegiving.

By tomorrow the marae should be buzzing with 30 information and food stalls, including The Evil Stepson food truck run by My Kitchen Rules runners-up Aaron and Heather Freeman.

The Wild Food Festival opens at 10am, with a charge of $5 for adults but free for children.

There will be games, bands playing on a stage and duelling paddlers in an on-river canoe contest.

Mr Kumeroa is hoping the festival will bring more visiting hunters to the river and enthuse local people about getting their own food.

Money raised from stall fees and auctioned animals goes to Parikino Marae.

Before they left, Mr Kumeroa told the hunters he wanted quad bikes ridden by one person at a time, and that person wearing a helmet. He said there could be poachers on the blocks assigned to them, being hunting season, and he cautioned safety with firearms.