Deer are multiplying in the Whanganui bush and about 200 hunters will be out to get them on the last weekend in April, Whanganui River Hunting Competition co-organiser Chris Kumeroa says.
There were no big red deer stags bagged in the last competition, but there could be this year when the Hunting & Wild Food Festival will be based at Paraweka Marae from April 27 to 29.
"There's not a lot of pressure applied for [the deer] and they can double or quadruple every two to three years," Mr Kumeroa said.
Hunters aged 16 and over, with firearms licences, will be out looking to kill red deer, fallow deer and pigs. A celebrity team of four - yet to be named - will be with a guide on a hunting block chosen just for them.
Visitors can also bring animals they have hunted elsewhere, and enter them.
"We encourage people to hunt on their own blocks and bring their species to us and we can all share their joy," Mr Kumeroa said.
Younger children will be bagging possums, rabbits and magpies. They will have their own $500 prize pool donated by the Conservation Department.
One of the many aims of the annual competition and festival is to reduce the number of pests on the land, Mr Kumeroa said. It's also to boost tourism, to introduce Maori youngsters to hunting on their own land, and to increase cultural awareness.
This year the hunting blocks will span the Whanganui and Ruapehu districts, on Maori land. All have vehicle or helicopter access, and places for hunters to stay.
Hunters are to meet and have their blocks assigned on the Friday. On Saturday the Whakatūpato Firearms Safety programme will be delivered to aspiring hunters. It has been 95 per cent successful, Mr Kumeroa said.
Sunday is the day for the weigh-in and prizegiving. Starting at 10am there will be all manner of food and cultural stalls at the marae, plus entertainment that ranges from midget kapa haka to the band Common Unity.
The hunting competition started at Matahiwi Marae in 2013, and is now in its fifth year. It has a website, Aotearoa Hunt Nation.
It also has a 260-page safety plan, because safety is so important.
"We have to turn over every stone to make sure health and safety is at the forefront."
The main sponsor is Wilsons Hunting & Outdoors, contributing a prize pool of $10,000 that includes firearms.
Others are Te Puni Kokiri, Ngā Tangata Tiaki, Te Mana o Te Awa, the Atihau-Whanganui Incorporation and the New Zealand Defence Force. Police are also helping with firearms safety.