Until just a few years ago, I put meat on my table the way pretty much everyone else in America did: by going to the supermarket, picking out a tidy little piece of flesh wrapped in cellophane and tossing it into my grocery cart.

But I had the uneasy sense that this wasn't the right way to go about it. I grew up in a family that raised animals for food and I knew that those animals lived better lives - and tasted better in the end - than the poor creatures bound for the supermarket.

I always thought I'd end up raising animals for meat again, once I managed to break the cycle of urban apartment living. But I never had a clue that I might someday hunt wild animals - and that wild game would very quickly account for about 95 percent of the meat I eat.

What happened? When my boyfriend, Hank Shaw, and I were working for the St. Paul Pioneer Press in Minnesota, we befriended hunting and fishing writer Chris Niskanen, and it didn't take a whole lot of stories from Chris for Hank to get the bug.

Hank started with with squirrels, rabbits and pheasants, and when we moved to Sacramento, California - which is smack dab in the middle of the wintering grounds for half the birds in the Pacific Flyway - he took up duck hunting.

Hank had been inviting me to hunt with him from the very beginning, but it was the ducks that made me buckle. It might have been the fact that I was getting lonely at home when he was spending long weekend days in the marsh.

But it might have been how incredibly delicious duck tastes. He'd cook them so simply: salt the whole bird, brown it in duck fat in a cast iron pan, roast in the oven until it's medium rare, then serve. We fell on those birds with abandon, juice dribbling down our chins as Hank's cat, Paka, circled the table like a shark, hoping to get her share as well. Swoon!

In 2006 - the same year I left the newspaper business to teach journalism at Sacramento State - I bought a shotgun and started hunting ducks with Hank. At 41, I was a late bloomer in a pursuit that most people take up as children. But I fell in love with it immediately - there was something about being a participant in nature that made it irresistible.

I started NorCal Cazadora a year later, thinking I would write little tidbits about women in hunting. But the blog quickly became a place where I would share stories of the hunt, express exasperation with the challenges of learning to hunt, and explore some of the incredibly counterintuitive aspects of hunting: Why does hunting make me love and respect animals more than I ever did before? Why do I love hunting when its ultimate goal is actually sad - the death of an animal? Those explorations and the resulting conversations in the comment section of each blog post have helped me get to the root of what hunting is all about.

I haven't quit my day job - I'm still teaching journalism. But I have branched out: I've written about hunting for publications including the Sacramento Bee, Delta Waterfowl, Turkey Country and fieldandstream.com, and I've done food photography (often with wild game as the subject) for magazines including the Art of Eating, Meatpaper and Edible Sacramento. I also shoot for Hank's blog - Hunter Angler Gardener Cook - and provided two-thirds of the photos for his 2011 book, Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast.

That's all a far cry from what I used to do as a reporter and editor covering politics for newspapers like the Orange County Register, the San Jose Mercury News, the Pioneer Press and the Virginian-Pilot. But at last I feel like I've come home.