What Does The Word "Upland" Actually Mean?
That's a great question. If you poke around enough catalogs, web sites, and
magazines, you'll see the term "upland" used widely, but rarely along with
a clear definition of the word's meaning or history. The term is an old one,
and has come to mean different things to different people when used in
different contexts. Perhaps the first place to start would be with the
dictionary definition, as seen in Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary:
Of course, many an upland hunter will laugh out loud at the phrase "generally
dry" because one simply cannot pursue quail, pheasant, grouse, and other
upland game without winding up, on occasion, completely soaked by rain, caked
in snow, and covered in mud, manure, and bird droppings. That, of course, is
why we care so much about good gear!
To the extent that we're talking about the word "upland" largely in the
context of that hunting niche, it's important to know why game birds are
generally lumped into the categories of "upland" and "wetland."
It's not because they aren't found in each other's ranges (plenty of quail
hunters have been tempted by a shot at a mallard, and lots of goose hunters have
spooked up pheasants on their way across a farmer's field to their blind).
Rather, we can separate the "upland" birds by the fact that they don't
need to be near a body of water or marsh in order to breed and raise chicks.
1. High land; ground elevated above the meadows and
intervals which lie on the banks of rivers, near the sea, or between
hills; land which is generally dry; -- opposed to lowland, meadow,
marsh, swamp, interval, and the like.
2. The country, as distinguished from the neighborhood of towns. [Obs.]
But the distinction made in the definition above really does clarify
the issue pretty well: deliberately mucking about in swamps while hunting ducks and
geese is a completely different activity with its own attending
gear, dogs, guns, and attitude. We're focused instead on the
life and times of those hunters that like to stroll through miles of fields
and woods, and for whom that lodge at the end of the hunt (and the
meal that's going to be enjoyed inside) is just as important. "Uplands"
refers to a type of terrain, but it also refers to a setting, and a frame
of mind - a certain amount of distance (physical and psychological!) from
the hustle and bustle of denser city and suburb existence. "Upland" used
to be used interchangeably with "countryside," but now it connotes that
and so much more. This web site is about the so much more.
Note: There are all sorts of terms associated with upland pursuits, some of
which are old and a bit arcane, and some of which you may have heard but never
really quite understood. We're here to help! Visit our own exclusive
Encyclopedia Uplandia for all sorts of useful reading.