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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, for example, in Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary: Uplands
\Up"land\, n.

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.]
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 tend to be near a body of water or marsh in order to breed, raise, and protect their chicks. The terrain in which those birds are found also explains the inclusion of animals like rabbits, in most states, in the upland game category. It's a rare partridge-housing hedgerow that isn't also home to Mr. Cottontail, as well.

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. Upland hunting revolves around 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.

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