Not today, bison. Not. Today.
Deion Broxton, a reporter at KTVM-TV in Montana, avoided a close call with a herd of bison on Wednesday and won over the entire internet in return.
Broxton told HuffPost on Friday that he was filming a story about Yellowstone National Park’s coronavirus closure when he saw a group of bison headed straight for him.
One bison, in particular, didn’t break eye contact with Broxton, who was giving the beast major side-eye as he watched his every more.
“Oh, my God. Oh, my God,” Broxton says, his eyes darting back and forth between the bison and his camera as the animals got closer.
“Oh, no. I ain’t messing with you,” he says in the 18-second clip before sprinting out of the frame.
Fearing for his own safety, Broxton quickly packed up his gear as he muttered under his breath.
“Oh, no. Oh, no. I ain’t messing with you,” he added, dumping the camera in his trunk as it was still filming.
Broxton later tweeted out footage of the bison he shot after packing up his gear and safely scurrying away:
In just three days, the video has gone insanely viral, racking up 10.1 million views as of Saturday.
Though Broxton told HuffPost he thought that the blooper was funny, he definitely didn’t anticipate it being such a smash.
“Normally when I’ve finished [filming], I stop recording and put the camera away and collapse the tripod. But I was so spooked I just threw the whole thing in the back of the truck and I didn’t realize it was still recording, cause you know, in the moment you just think about your safety,” he said.
“When I got back to the station, I wanted to post this as a blooper, but it didn’t cross my mind this time. I definitely just wanted to get the hell out of there.”
And in the age of the coronavirus pandemic, his video clip has accidentally become the perfect self-distancing meme:
Broxton told HuffPost that he’s been in Montana for a year and 10 months exactly and that this gig is his first reporting job. Born and raised a city kid in Baltimore, Broxton said he’s more used to seeing rats than bison.
“I’m not like an animal person. I barely like dogs,” he said with a laugh.
He said it took him some time to adjust to Montana because he “knew nothing about nature.”
“When I first moved here, I was pretty timid,” he said. “There’s no Black people in Montana, so that added to it.”
But he quickly embraced the Montana lifestyle ― hiking, camping and “doing all the Montana things.” He added that he’s grateful for his new perspective, which was the reason he moved away from home, “to experience different cultures and places in the country.”
And though Broxton said he’s had encounters with bison, elk, antelope and bears before, it was from the safety of his car (save for spotting a bear once on a hike).
With the bison he was shooting on this particular day, Broxton said he saw the herd when he was driving up to film but wasn’t worried because they were a safe distance away.
“From my encounters with them ― you know, if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you. And so I started recording, and then I see them slowly kind of coming towards me,” the reporter said, adding that they were just walking and eating grass, but he’s normally “already spooked anywhere” around animals.
“So I’m looking at him waiting for him to break eye contact and look back down, you know, eat grass and go on about his business,” Broxton added. “But he just kept looking at me and walking towards me, and you could see from my eyes, like, ‘Bro, are you going to stop walking towards me?’”
Because he’s reported in Yellowstone a lot, Broxton said he knows how to gauge a safe distance around most wildlife. As soon as this bison broke the 25-yard rule, Broxton was out of there.
“I know that these animals can just charge you if they feel threatened. This bison, it didn’t appear threatened. It looked more curious, but it was too much curiosity for me, and I was, like, ‘Nope, nope. Time for me to go.’”
Yellowstone park officials later complimented him on his decision via Twitter, calling Broxton’s video “A perfect example of what to do when approached by wildlife!”
Other big names found their way to Broxton’s video, including one of the reporter’s idols, former NFL star Deion Sanders.
Sanders retweeted the video, which Broxton said meant a lot to him as a kid from Baltimore, and he hopes that the two can meet.
“I used to watch Deion Sanders play for the Redskins and the Ravens,” Broxton said, adding that he always asked his mom if he was named after the NFL great. “For Christmas one year, I got a Deion Sanders jersey because I was so obsessed with him, and I still have it.”
During the busy last few days, Broxton said that it’s been a bit tough to juggle his work with his viral fame. But the reporter said that because he’s in media himself, he’s refused to turn down any interview and has done about 15 or 16 so far.
Media appearances aside, messages from fans have meant the most to him, especially from people who are stuck inside while they self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The first day that I posted it, one lady emailed me and said, this is the first time I smiled in five days. And it gave me goose bumps,” Broxton said, admitting that usually he just wants people to get a good laugh out of his bloopers.
“It really means a lot to me that I can put a smile on someone’s face during a hard time,” he said. “For instance ― when I moved to Montana, I didn’t have any friends. I know how hard times can be.”
“I go through social media and laugh at videos and stuff, and it makes me feel better. So to know that I can make someone ― even if it’s for 18 seconds ― if my 18-second video made you smile, I think it’s all worth it.”