Taken 9/11, this bull is ready now for the 2012 rut. At this time he is waiting to associate with a cow herd. While there are bull elk now rutting, there are very few cow elk in heat. As more become estrous, at some point a threshold is crossed, and all the bulls will join the rut. At this date, there are plenty like the bull below. This will all change in about 2 weeks or less.
This bull is too small to be a herd bull. A few clues are his small antlers, and his body is slim, much like an adolescent human. The big bulls are impressively larger, and their antlers are larger and heavier. This young bull will be a "satellite bull", hanging around herd for opportunities, but not in a position to challenge for domination.